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Synopsis:

An unseen reporter for the school newspaper is interviewing the Humane Five about how they got to be such good friends, and pieces the story together from interviewing them all separately:

Freshman year of Canterlot High School, all five members of the Humane Five come to school. They initially meet with one another at the Freshman Fair but are soon swept up in their own concerns. Applejack wants to just fit in with the more urban student body although she comes from a rural background. Pinkie Pie is wanting to find the perfect extracurricular activity that’s fun. Rarity is wanting to make her mark on the school. Rainbow Dash is wanting to make the soccer team and become the school star. Fluttershy is just looking for where she wants to be in life right now but is afraid of everyone. Applejack ends up trying to pair with her two cousins, Sunflower and Babs Seed, but they tell her that her rural mannerisms won’t fit in and she needs to change. Meanwhile, they gravitate toward Rarity who’s self-confident, attractive, and catches the eyes of everyone; introducing her to the “elite” members of the school. Rainbow Dash focuses almost all of her attention on the soccer team and being the best, and Fluttershy, while able to hit it off with Rarity and being friends already with Rainbow Dash, is trying to support the latter but still feels “something is missing”. As the weeks go on, circumstances drive the group apart from each other. Applejack continuously tries to make herself more of a high class urban girl but is only shunned more by Sunflower and Babs Seed. As for Rarity, Sunflower, Babs Seed, and the rest of the school elites demand all of her time and discourage her from interacting with anyone else not at the top of the pecking order. Rainbow Dash makes the soccer team but soon gets a swollen ego and devotes herself only to being the star, getting the ire of the rest of her teammates. Pinkie Pie finds lots of activities that are fun for her, but she dislikes them all because they don’t let her make fun for anyone else. Finally, Fluttershy is continuously “lost in the crowd” and not able to find any place she fits in.

Finally, Canterlot High plays its first game against the “Shadowbolts”. Rainbow Dash’s grandstanding ends up costing the team the ball numerous times. There, Pinkie Pie finally gets an idea to help everyone else have fun by distributing Wondercolts horse ears and tails to whip up people for a pep rally, and “drafts” Fluttershy to help. While passing them out, Fluttershy notices that Sunflower has a sick dog and tries to offer her help, but when Sunflower responds by mocking and teasing her, Applejack and Rarity both erupt at her; the former for ever wanting to “be like a bully” and the latter for being stunned at their lack of gratitude. They end up helping her and Pinkie Pie distribute the favors and whip up the crowd, which in turn motivates Rainbow Dash to think more like a team player and pass the ball to Spitfire for the winning goal. Following the event, the girls realize both their respective virtues and become friends from the same event (paralleling how the Mane Six gained the Cutie Marks that led to their destined friendship by the same event).

The interview over, each of the girls thanks the reporter–revealing it to be Sunset Shimmer, who says she’s learned everything she needs to know about them.

Review:

At the time that the first annual for the IDW Comic series came out, the only entry in the “Equestria Girls” franchise was the original movie, and that wasn’t a good leg to start out on. The original movie is not the most beloved of the franchise. In fact, according to IDW, it’s the least liked of the franchise…and, if you’ve seen my review, for pretty good reason. It was viewed as unnecessary, bizarre, and simplistic. It wouldn’t be until “Rainbow Rocks” and the subfranchise finding a new deteuroagonist in who was regarded as a bland and uninspired villain that the series took off.

On one hand, that put a pretty tall burden on the writers for this issue. On the other hand, with a universe that only had so much canon, it left a lot of possibilities.

The fact of the matter is the Equestria Girls movies are mostly all the domain of Twilight Sparkle, Sunset Shimmer, and Sci-Twi. Any other character is there almost obligatory just for funny scenes and to round out the set. Most of the character development and individuality we’ve gotten from the Human Five came from the shorts, and none of those were meant to be poignant. The comic gave an opportunity to flesh that out, especially since, in this prequel, neither Twilight Sparkle or (technically) Sunset Shimmer are around to steal any spotlights.

How did it do? Well, at first I didn’t think much of this arc because I focused on the wrong things. Now? I appreciate it more.

The story works pretty hard to both maintain the identity of the Humane Five as well as make them more relateable to the real world as they’re human high school students. For the most part, it works out in that way. Each one features a realistic problem that would apply to high school students. Applejack comes from a different background and is pressured to change herself to fit in. Rarity immediately gets absorbed into the upper cliques because of her high manners and attractiveness. Rainbow Dash is out to forge her identity through athletic excellence, not only for school notoriety but for herself. And Fluttershy has the problem a lot of students face…they don’t know what to try for in forging their own identity and they end up just kind of wandering around aimlessly.

Pinkie Pie is the only one who really doesn’t fit in to a section of reality, and it causes the story to suffer a bit for it. This particular arc was going for fairly solid realism. No magic or monsters or anything like that. Therefore, when the occasional antic of Pinkie comes out such as narrating her own story, having tea with a ferret, or random confetti happens, it’s a bit out of place. Yet what’s most off about her is that she already knows what she wants to do with her life, which makes her actually more “mature” than the rest of the girls. She just doesn’t know how best to do it, and she ends up being the lynch pin for the group instead of Rainbow Dash (with a Sonic Rainboom) at the end.

The other thing that’s jarring is Sunflower and Babs Seed. Sunflower not so much as we don’t know anything about her character prior to this, but not only is moving Babs Seed to an older age than Applejack kind of odd, but it seems odd after trying to make her a sympathetic character (though still a bully) on the show they decided to make the human version of her just a pure rotten bully more or less. It was rather distracting to me on the first readthrough.

Yet those two points aside, on the second readthrough everything clicked a lot better. What we ended up with was something that was a logical “re-telling” of “The Cutie Mark Chronicles” for the human version, and what they gave was something that was a bit unique but also had the feel of that same episode. It might not have been quite as fanciful or poignant, but I’d saw the IDW writers still managed to put something together that expanded logically on the show in a new and intriguing way. Even the last page seems to be hinting at a way to draw Twilight Sparkle into it, indicating she too is part of their destiny.

At this point it’s been almost three years since IDW handled an Equestria Girls storyline (I can’t honestly blame them after the Christmas Special…but all in good time…), so it’s doubtful they’ll ever do one again. Yet for this storyline, I think it was definitely a winner.

Fun Facts:

This comic serves as the prequel to “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls”. When it was originally released, it contained an 8-page short originally published as an exclusive in the San Diego Comic Con version of Issue #9: “The Fall of Sunset Shimmer”, which also, naturally, served as a prequel.

The entire story is presented in the form of a single narrative being gleaned from interviews with the Humane Five. A similar motif would be used in Season Six’s “The Saddle Row Review”.

Human Rainbow Dash and Human Fluttershy are already friends from “Cloudsdale Junior High”, which serves as a parallel for how Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy became friends originally in Cloudsdale long before both relocated to Ponyville and met the others.

Although Babs Seed’s older sister was never named on the show, she was named Sunflower in the comic. Interestingly enough, she is the only character whose humanized appearance came before her pony appearance, as she would go on to appear in Friends Forever #9 and the main series Issue #32. In an even more bizarre twist, Babs Seed is older than Applejack in the human world.

The humanized gremlins are at Canterlot High School. :/ I guess the gremlins are the IDW signature or something…

The team that Canterlot High plays against is the “Shadowbolts”. This was two full years before “Legend of Everfree” would create the Crystal Prep Shadowcolts, but one can overlook one letter and assume they’re the same team, making the Shadowcolts the first thing from the IDW Comic that became show canon.

Foreshadowing is made to “Equestria Girls” on the very last page, when the girls mentioned they felt they were destined to be friends before they even met: “And all it took was…a spark.”

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5