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Well, for all those “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” fans or bronies or pegasisters or whatever you like to call yourself out there, Season Five is upon us at last with “The Cutie Map” debuting last Saturday. Assuming you’re one of the…well, one people who read my reviews to MLP:FIM, I never review the show itself until the DVD release, so don’t expect my review of that episode or any in Season Five for a very long time (like…another year).

But I feel this was the most “different” an episode was in a long time, even compared to the violence level of the Season Four finale, and it had a much different “feel” to it. This led me to probe a bit deeper, and I noticed a number of interesting things about it. I figured I’d put them out here because…well, this is my blog and what else do you do with a blog but point out random things? 😛 Anyway, if you watched the episode too, see if you picked up on any of these.

1. Kelly Sheridan joins the cast

The new villain, Starlight Glimmer, was voiced by none other than voice acting giant Kelly Sheridan. She’s been in the business for 20 years and has done a great deal of Anime as well as American media. While I remember her best as Sango from “Inuyasha”, it’s interesting to note that she’s provided the voice of Barbie in all of Mattel’s straight-to-home-video Barbie films. I find that funny as that’s a rival to Hasbro. Anyway…Sheridan isn’t a stranger to the MLP franchise although the only voices she’s done up until now have been the stand-alone films that came prior to the FIM reboot. On a side note, I noticed she had the same hair style as Sango. 🙂

2. A unique kind of villain…or not so unique?

Staying on the subject of the biggest standout of the episode, the villain itself, Starlight Glimmer was a rather unique villain. It’s been a while since we’ve had a villain who is just a “straight unicorn”. Well, obviously Sunset Shimmer was another one, but in her case she had the whole “alternate universe” thing to enhance her own prestige. Starlight Glimmer didn’t really have that. And while both she and Sunset Shimmer derived their true “power” not through acts of magic but their ability to use and manipulate people, which itself is rather clever, Starlight Glimmer was the first opponent to be able to “taint friendship”, using a form of domination and control and passing it off as friendship.

Still, in spite of that, there’s more than a little concern to me that she’ll end up being the “show version” of Sunset Shimmer. Based on her dialog it sounds as if she has a desire to bring people beneath her to feel comfortable around them, like Sunset Shimmer did. She’s obviously exceptional at magic if she has enough power to remove the abilities not only of an alicorn but one who herself is exceptional at magic, and she used quite a bit of talent in her escape as well. Time will tell because I doubt this is the last we’ve seen of Starlight this season.

3. More work for Rebecca Shoichet

On the topic of Sunset Shimmer, it seems voice actor Rebecca Shoichet is also cementing her role in MLP:FIM. Previously her only work on the show involved playing Sunset Shimmer in the Equestria Girls movies. But in this one she did both Sugar Bell and Night Glider. Could this mean those characters are going to be more permanent fixtures and they’re working to incorporate her fully into the cast? I’ve thought for years that they’d try to retire Tara Strong…

4. Where is everybody?

After four seasons, it’s obvious the show creators are going to need to get more, well, creative to find more things for the cast to do. And it seems their answer was to create the map device in the palace to send the girls all over Equestria, which opens up all sorts of possibilities. However, at the same time, I wonder just how accurate the show’s opening is going to be pretty soon as this might also mean Ponyville will barely feature in any episode, along with everyone who lives there. Even Spike seemed to be conveniently written out of this episode so it could focus on the Mane Six. Again, time will tell.

5. Ramp up the plotline

I found it rather interesting that there was only one song in this episode, and, unlike many songs in many episodes which appear to be there “just for fun”, this one actually helped advance the plot a bit by outlining Starlight Glimmer’s deranged philosophy. The bulk of this episode had very little “dead time” in it. Even the bits with the girls wandering around the town doing nothing was to build tension. I think that might be a point in favor of the plots getting more complex and “mature”, especially since the theme in this episode had to deal with cult situations and actually featured brainwashing. That envelope of a Y-rating might be pushed harder yet…

6. Friendship is Mag-DENIED!

While Discord was the first villain to show Twilight Sparkle what he thought of her traditional “Power of Friendship” speeches (“Ugh…gag.”), Starlight Glimmer has the distinction of being the first villain to cut her off.

7. Mane Six…being sidelined?

It’s no secret in this episode that four brand new characters who may or may not be one-shot ended up being “the heroes”. That was so off-putting that Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle actually commented on it and anticipated the message boards for this episode, actually pointing out how: “Well, technically since we’re the ones who got them to change, we’re still the heroes.” I am a bit concerned if that means that the Mane Six are going to start fading out into obscurity. After all, Twilight Sparkle has gone about as “far” as one would think, and Princess Celestia doesn’t do a lot herself… Is this setting up for a full cast replacement? It would allow them to revisit themes of old episodes and extend the show longer… Time will again tell for this one, but I’m a bit fearful of the answer.

8. Closing the Gender Gap

When the show first premiered, the ponies were overwhelmingly female. It wasn’t until a few episodes into the first season that stallions started to show up, a significant departure from the earlier MLP series. But this is probably the first episode I’ve seen where I’ve noticed the males and females featured fairly equally in all respects.

9. The universe has expanded

We may have gotten our new MacGuffins for this season and didn’t even know it. The “Staff of Sameness” ended up being a fake, but it was mentioned that there were eight other genuine magical items that came from a previously-unmentioned unicorn sorcerer: Meadowbrooke. Until now, they’d just shove those things off onto Starswirl the Bearded, but it seems they have bigger intentions in mind. I’m always up for something that adds to the show’s lore, and I hope to hear more in the coming episodes.

10. Down with Socialism…?

I’m a conservative so you’re asking the wrong guy when it comes to what I think about a children’s cartoon disparaging socialism, but was this episode anti-socialist? Well, on the surface, you could say it was a cautionary tale about cults and people who try to change who you are to make you fit into a group, and I think you can see it as that. But I’m not so sure that’s the end of it. Starlight Glimmer was definitely ramping up how much “friendship you’d experience” if you converted to her way, but the key part of that was so-called “equality”. Everyone getting rid of everything that made them unique so that they’d all be on the same level. Now, that could also be interpreted that the episode was pro-diversity, but…

Winston Churchill was quoted as saying that the biggest detriment of Socialism was “equal sharing of misery”. And that was definitely the major side effect of this new “equal” society. Everyone had the same basic house. Everyone wore the same sackcloth clothes. Everyone ate the same horrendous food. And why? No one was allowed to build a better house than anyone else. No one was allowed to make clothes better than anyone else. No one was allowed to cook better than anyone else. The end result was because no one excelled, everyone was stuck in the same pitiful state. They were equal, yes…equally miserable.

Not to mention the fact that it ended up that the ponies were living in the same kind of society in “Animal Farm” at the end, which promises equality but uses so-called equality as nothing more than a tool to enslave for the sake of a minority…a new form of dictatorship, as it were. Starlight Glimmer’s philosophy ended up being: “All ponies are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” She was the one individual who didn’t have to give up anything about herself, and naturally she was in power over all the others.

Food for thought.

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