The Mane Six are having tea with Princess Cadance and Shining Armor before they have to return to the Crystal Empire for their first wedding anniversary, and the subject turns to the story of how they met…
Back in high school, Shining Armor and his friends are tripped by the high school polo star/bully, Buck Withers, and Cadance stops by to help them up. Shining Armor immediately falls for Cadance and becomes determined to have her be his “very special somepony” in spite of the fact she’s the most popular student in school and he’s a nerd. His friends try to help him by making a three step plan: (1) talk to her, (2) do something to make him stand out, and (3) win the crown at the Fall Formal Gala for king. Shining Armor (barely) manages to pass the first step by croaking out a “hello” when Cadance comes by to foal-sit for Twilight Sparkle before he and his parents leave for his fluglehorn performance. Next they stage an outrageous float for the pep rally before the Canterlot Academy big polo game, which Cadance applauds but is quickly drowned out by everyone else laughing and the jocks, including Buck, mocking them. This prompts step 3 to change to humiliating Buck by having him flub up the polo game, but all of their attempts to troll him backfire and make him more of a success than ever. Things get worse when at the end of the game Buck beats Shining Armor to asking Cadance out to the Fall Formal, and she accepts saying who she hoped would ask her out hasn’t done so yet. Shining Armor sinks into depression.
At this point, Cadance interjects saying that Shining Armor is embellishing the story too much and tells the rest from her perspective…
After Shining Armor manages to croak his “hello” and leaves for his concert, Cadance confesses she’s attracted to him to Twilight Sparkle and the two do a rigorous calculation that determines the two are perfect for each other. Later at the pep rally, Cadance honestly thinks Shining Armor’s performance is sweet and Buck acts like too much of a jerk, but accidentally overhears and misinterprets that Shining Armor likes someone else and, as a result, agrees to go with Buck. Later, she confesses to her friends she doesn’t want to go to the dance with him, but they convince her to break up with him and go with Shining Armor at the dance so that they can be “shoulders to cry on” for Buck (secretly wanting to date him instead). Meanwhile, Shining Armor’s own friends plot to expose Buck’s jerkiness so that Cadance will break up with him by annoying him at the dance until he blows up. At the dance, Cadance realizes Shining Armor doesn’t have a date and she was the one he was attracted to all along. The two sides enact their plan and Shining Armor ends up paired with Cadance, but Buck is infuriated that Shining Armor “stole” her from him. When it comes time to crown the Fall Formal King and Queen, Cadance wins Queen, but Buck wins King. He uses the opportunity to publicly taunt and boast to Shining Armor’s face, but not only does Shining Armor stand up for himself, but he prompts his friends and all the other attendees to point out how much they appreciate Shining Armor’s own kind-hearted and generous nature and hate Buck’s bullying and boasting. The crowd ends up passing his crown off to Shining Armor instead and he and Cadance have the “best night ever”.
To conclude the story in the present day, it’s revealed Buck changed his ways as he got older and that he and Shining Armor are now friends.
Is it possible to enjoy something that’s so horrendously flawed? Apparently.
One of the biggest omissions that the series has never touched on is fleshing out Shining Armor and Princess Cadance’s characters. After two seasons following their finale first appearance, the two are still largely MacGuffins and appear more-or-less for plot devices or to simply say: “Hey! Remember us? The guys they hyped to sell their wedding toys?” So naturally the comic provided the perfect opportunity for that, in spite of the fact they hadn’t appeared at all in the first three arcs. I looked forward to them actually getting some personality traits and something that stood out about them.
How did they do?
Hit and miss, in my opinion. Let’s start with the bad.
The worst part was that the already plot-hole heavy Season Two finale was made more of a mess in this story, making this entire plotline the first example the comic writers did that was very out-of-continuity. Part of the setup for the Season Two finale was that while Twilight Sparkle recalled Cadance from when she was a filly and looked up to her a lot, she never saw her at that age as more than a favored caretaker. Hence, she had no idea about Shining Armor’s attraction to her. The very fact that Shining Armor was getting married at all or even had a relationship with somepony was a shock to Twilight in Season Two. And while she was up on the idea of Cadance (at least the Cadance she remembered) being her sister-in-law, she quickly turned icy to her as soon as she started looking like a bitch, regarding her as a hostile entity rather than a “friend who had changed over the years”. However, the bottom line was that she knew nothing of the pairing. Yet this comic did more than show Twilight Sparkle knew all about them being together…she actually helped get them together. So the fact that Twilight Sparkle would be oblivious to them in Season Two doesn’t match at all with this. That’s the biggest hole and it can’t be overlooked. The fact that it’s there as well as the flubbed infamous nursery rhyme indicates that the authors didn’t watch the Season Two finale more than once or twice for research.
Second, as always, Cadance is a fairy princess and nothing more. She’s nice, she’s cute, she’s kind…and that’s it. About the only personality traits she shows are the stereotypical traits we think all wives have toward their husbands: that they ended up marrying a large child they’re now more-or-less forced to “raise”. Even Celestia’s brief appearance shows off more personality (which is something the comic actually does well…making Celestia more of a character than an alabaster statue). But as far as expanding on who Cadance is or her background, it does little. I’m supposing the IDW authors can only go a little into her background as it has to be left open for the show, but still… The fact that it hints that Celestia is her blood relative only creates more confusion.
The plotline itself is more or less something that’s been done before in goodness knows how many romantic comedies. I think it works because, let’s face it, for as cliche as it is and how we know these things end, it still has elements of how reality works out. It’s amazing how we men think the fate of the planet hangs in the balance by how we say “hello” to a woman.
Aside from that, I think it had some good parts.
The plotline may have been done before but I think it was done well. The allusions are really ramped up for this one, which helps flesh out the reused skeleton quite a bit. Many of them are quite funny, especially to the demographic this comic likely appealed to in the first place: nerds. And it didn’t resort fully to cliches, instead opting to go for “fun”, which I also give it credit for. It’s enjoyable. And it makes characters who are normally MacGuffins enjoyable too.
While Cadance may have not advanced much, she’s gotten more screen time on the show, so it’s kind of “fair” that the character we really flesh out in this one is Shining Armor. I think it’s a tad odd that they never really show him having an interest in ROTC or the military or anything that would have eventually landed him in the Canterlot Royal Guard. He doesn’t look particularly skilled with magic either although we know offensive and defensive spells are his forte. Aside from a tiny note here or there, there’s no indicating he’s even athletic (although, to be fair, he’s a unicorn and the show has presented the idea that unicorns aren’t terribly physically impressive, and his competitor in this arc is an earth pony so it makes sense). I think they could have touched more on that.
But, aside from that…I think his background is actually plausible. He’s not only Twilight Sparkle’s brother, she’s his BBBFF. So, for her to gravitate to him so much, it would make sense he would be a lot like her and show traces of the same background influencing him. It makes sense that he’s a nerd. It makes sense that he’s a bit of a momma’s boy. It makes sense that he’s insecure. All of these things are what you see in Twilight Sparkle. She’s a nerd. She’s insecure. And while we may not see her gravitating to her mother that much, she’s constantly hinging her existence on Celestia’s approval, who is definitely another maternal figure in her life. So yeah, that actually makes sense. It may be a bit overdone, but it’s not over the top.
And really, the one thing that I compliment this series on the second readthrough is that it did something that needed to happen in the series for a while now: a class culture standing up to a bully. The plot isn’t settled by Shining Armor blasting Buck Withers in the face; it’s settled by Shining Armor being publicly lauded as the kind of individual who should be celebrated by high school society, or ANY society, and Buck Withers being exposed as a rich, snobbish bully. You see, this sort of thing needs to happen to Diamond Tiara. Her class needs to stand up and say that it doesn’t matter how rich or connected you are; you’re a jerk and no amount of money or prestige or status changes the fact you’re a jerk. You can’t “buy” friendship just by being popular and having a lot of things, especially not when you just rub it in everyone else’s face every chance you get. And furthermore, just like in true show fashion…it works. It shows Buck actually does become more humble and thoughtful of others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think we would all hope that later in life we’re better people than we were in high school.
So, all in all, if you can avoid being an anal-retentive nerd (like I am) and ignore that this is too mucked up to be part of the show’s continuity, it’s a nice arc. In a sense, as I’ve said before, the entire IDW series is not so much able to be seen from the viewpoint of being canon as being “very well done fanfiction”. This arc…is more like “enjoyable fanfiction”, but it is enjoyable.
The title is a takeoff of “Say Anything”, another teen romantic comedy.
One of the pages of stand-alone art shows Cadance’s yearbook. There are numerous allusions to it. The cassette tape is an allusion to Bruce Springsteen and “Born in the USA”. Her scribblings are an allusion to Princess Fiona’s diary in “Shrek 2” fantasizing about her name change after marrying Prince Charming. She’s drinking “Colt”, and although Colt 45 is a beer, this is obviously a takeoff of “Coke”. The yearbook lists her as Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, indicating she did indeed use that title once. According to the yearbook she was in choir all four years of high school and was voted class favorite in her Junior and Senior year. She was also voted Most Likely To Succeed, was Homecoming Queen in her Junior year, and Prom Queen her Senior year. Shining Armor, on the other hand, has quite the “nerd roster”: a LARPer and Gaming Club for all four years, in Math Club and Chess Club his Junior and Senior year, and finally one athletic activity, Cross Country, in his Senior year. Cheerilee is also listed, wearing the same getup she originally showed in Season One’s “Call of the Cutie”. She was in Flag Corps all four years, Choir her Sophomore and Junior year, Debate her Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years, Honor Society her Junior and Senior year, and was Valedictorian. Finally, Moondancer is half-obscured in the corner by the page. The coloration and Cutie Mark indicates she’s the G1 Moondancer, the character who inspired Twilight Sparkle. She was Varsity Cheerleader her Junior and Senior year and in Dance Club every year but Freshman. Finally, the page on the right shows numerous 80s versions of background ponies.
Applejack mentions to Cadance and Shining Armor that they’ll miss the Summer Wrap-Up and Hoe-Down Festival if they leave, indicating the tea in this issue takes place before the last arc chronologically. However, this arc is out of chronological continuity with the series. While the timing has never been perfectly pegged down, the fact the Summer Sun Festival happened at the beginning of Season Four (which hadn’t yet come out when this story was written) and Celestia’s comments regarding the same indicated that all of the events of Seasons One through Three took place over the course of one year (although I would debate that on several accounts). However, Twilight Sparkle mentions that their wedding anniversary is coming up, indicating that sometime during Season Three a year had already passed since the end of Season Two.
The show creators have officially stated that the events that take place in the “Equestria Girls” movies are AU compared to the actual show timeline, but thus far have all occurred plausibly in the same universe. The comic writers consider the “Equestria Girls” events to be canon along with the rest of the show, and it was first demonstrated in this issue.
One of Shining Armor’s friends, Poindexter, had actually appeared in Ponyville in Season Two.
A banner is hanging in school cheering on the school to “Ruin Rydell”. Rydell was the name of the high school in “Grease”.
In the panels where Shining Armor first sees Cadance, the frames are made up of textbooks and pamphlets for school. One is for ROTC…which surprisingly wasn’t listed on Shining Armor’s list of accomplishments in the yearbook. A later panel reveals him holding that book along with his “ONO” material.
All of Shining Armor’s friends are nerds, and their names are Gaffer, 8-Bit, and Poindexter. Gaffer is a tech crew nerd, 8-Bit is a gamer, and Poindexter is a stereotypical nerd.
When Shining Armor and friends are playing “Oubliettes and Ogres” (which itself is an obvious parody of “Dungeons and Dragons”), Gaffer asks 8-Bit if there’s any more Honey Dew, a parody of Mountain Dew. That in itself is another parody of an infamous audio sketch of people playing “Dungeons and Dragons”.
When Shining Armor announces he’s “made a decision”, the posters behind him are allusions to various famous 80s films: “Star Trot II”(Star Trek II), “Bridle Runner”(Blade Runner), and “Skylander”(Highlander). (That last one is partially obscured, possibly to avoid copyright infringement with the Skylanders video game series.)
Shining Armor announces that he’s going to ask Cadance to the Fall Formal Gala. The “Fall Formal” had only appeared canonically in “Equestria Girls” until now.
As much as the guys eye-roll at Shining Armor’s vision of the future…all of it is true. 😛
Cadance’s advertisement for her foal-sitting says “Recommended by Celestia”. I have no idea if that’s true or not…but it’s possible.
This first time Twilight Sparkle’s parents have ever said anything.
The float Shining Armor’s friends make is supposed to read: “Shining For King”, but there wasn’t enough room for the G and they inserted a carrot: a nod to Season One’s “Swarm of the Century”. Also, in a more adult joke, without the G the float appears to read: “Shining Forkin”.
In one of the best jokes…Shining Armor’s two-page rock panel is so epic that filly DJ-Pon-3/Vinyl Scratch in the audience gets her Cutie Mark from it. 😀 Also, Poindexter is wearing buttons that say “Where’s the Beef?” (an allusion to a famous Wendy’s advertisement from the 80s), and “Save Ferris” (an allusion to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).
When Shining Armor and friends are walking off in sorrow, the rules sign they pass reads: “NO: Spitting, Gum, Pushing, Fun of Any Kind”. The last one is an allusion to Dean Wormer in “Animal House”.
Another allusion to “Grease” appears later when Shining Armor puts out a heavy amount of “Zucco-Brand Grease”. Danny Zucco is the name of the male lead in “Grease”.
The Magnetic Polo Ball and Exploding Mallet used are made by “Acme”, which is the same company that makes all the crazy products for Looney Tunes. However, later comments indicate Shining Armor made the whole thing up.
Twilight Sparkle has a poster for “My Tiny Gecko”, a parody of…My Little Pony.
Cadance makes Twilight Sparkle swear to never tell Shining Armor about the night they did their “comparative analysis”…but it doesn’t make up for the Season Two mistake. Furthermore, they got the nursery rhyme wrong: they say “bake a cake” instead of “do a little shake”.
In an odd storytelling turn, Shining Armor tells the story in first-person, but Cadance is able to get into the heads of the other characters and tell a third-person omniscient story.
Apparently, Cadance wasn’t the only one impressed by the performance. Other ponies talk about how it got them to notice how cute Shining Armor was.
Cadance lives in a palace in Canterlot. While it’s unknown whether Cadance was born an alicorn like Celestia and Luna (unlikely as she seems to age at the same rate as regular ponies) or became one by virtue as Twilight Sparkle did, it appears she was always part of the “landed nobility” of Canterlot.
Cadance’s friends are named Lemony Gems and Diamond Rose.
Diamond Rose is carrying a case marked “Caboodles”. Those were a big thing in the ’90s. (I’m a guy so I never used them, but I had three sisters and lots of female cousins so I know these things.)
Cadance is holding an album entitled “Magenta Rain” by “Prance and the Revolution”. That’s obviously a takeoff of “Purple Rain” by Prince and the Revolution.
Cadance also has the same prophetic dream Shining Armor does. 🙂
On the walls of Shining Armor’s room are more nerd allusions, these ones more contemporary. There’s a “Bat-Pony”(Batman), a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a hat from Wally World(an allusion to National Lampoon’s Vacation), a poster for “Wyld Stallyns”(an allusion to the Bill and Ted movies), and a poster for the New Foal Titans(an allusion to the New Teen Titans).
8-Bit suggests Shining Armor and friends play a quick round of “Hocuspocus: The Get-Together”. This is a nod to “Magic: The Gathering”. In the same panel, Poindexter complains: “Thanks for the sour persimmons, buster.”, which is an allusion to Daffy Duck (specifically in the classic short “Duck Amok”).
The dance appears to be held in the Canterlot Royal Palace. Princess Celestia is there and there’s a book entitled: “Progress of Sunset Shimmer” on the side, another “Equestria Girls” allusion.
One of the things I neglected to mention in the first arc is how the comic writers really draw Celestia to appear like a “normal pony” rather than her older and more “refined” appearance she has on the show. She also frequently acts far more of the age and temperament of the Mane Six in many cases.
The comments that Buck makes on arriving at the palace as well as the relationship between her and Cadance indicates that Celestia is actually related to Cadance. This is odd, but not unheard of as Prince Blueblood was said to be related to Celestia. One of the great ambiguities of the show is that Celestia and Luna’s origins and blood relations in Canterlot have never been fully explained, but “Journal of the Two Sisters”, which was penned by Amy Keating Rogers (one of the writers for the show), indicates that the only way Celestia and Luna could have blood relations in Canterlot is if they have an undisclosed third sister or relative or if Celestia at one point “settled down”.
The disk jockey for the dance is named 33 1/3-LP. 😛
Both Cheerilee and Mayor Mare laugh off the aptitude tests that are very prophetic about their destinies. Mayor Mare has pink hair at the dance, something that was alluded to in Season Two’s “Ponyville Confidential”.
Mr. Cake is attracted to Poindexter. So are a lot of stallions…
Shining Armor mentions that Poindexter never gave Gaffer his Bat’Leth sword back. A Bat’Leth sword is a Klingon weapon (from “Star Trek”).
Gaffer and 8-Bit are seen seated in the rafters with a bucket, but Gaffer says: “Skip it. Too messy”. This indicates they were intending to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on Buck, an allusion to “Carrie”.
In the panel with Shining Armor and Cadance dancing, Gaffer is suddenly approached by an odd-looking pony in a naval uniform and says: “Ok, I got them together! Why haven’t I leaped, Al?”…an allusion to Quantum Leap. The main character would frequently enter the bodies of people throughout history and be forced to make history work out in a certain more beneficial way before he could “leap” into a new body in a different point of history, all while being aided by a hologram image of “Al”, which only he could see.
Lemony Gems went on to marry Buck Withers.
In the doujinshi following the arc, it’s revealed Twilight also plays “Oubliettes and Ogres”. Naturally.
3 Stars out of 5