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Synopsis:

The holidays have come to Canterlot High School, but it’s a melancholy time for Sunset Shimmer as she’s been alone ever since coming into the human world. To try and treat her to a nice holiday as well as to show how she’s been accepted as more than a friend but part of their “family”, the Humane Five decide to treat her to a series of slumber parties at each of their houses along with the other girls, culminating in a big holiday party at Sweet Apple Acres at the end. The first night is at Pinkie Pie’s, and during the night, after a call from Apple Bloom, Applejack finds herself forced to relate an embarrassing story of how she got the nickname “Piggly Wiggly” before they turn in. The next day at school, the girls find out that someone has created an online profile called “Anon-a-miss”, using Sunset Shimmer’s silhouette and color scheme, and has leaked the name to everyone, causing everyone to start making fun of Applejack. The next night is at Rarity’s house, where Sunset take some outrageous pictures of the girls playing dress up in Rarity’s failed wardrobe design. Yet the next day, Sunset comes to school and finds the girls enraged at her when they see Anon-a-miss posted the pictures taken from Sunset’s phone. They now believe her to be Anon-a-miss and that she just pretended to be nice to start backstabbing them again, and they break off their friendship from her.

Things get worse as days pass as Anon-a-miss continues to post everyone’s secrets, and the school starts turning on itself as it did before the events of “Equestria Girls”. Sunset is hated more every day as everyone blames her, and finally in despair she writes to Twilight Sparkle asking her if she thinks any Windegos might have gotten into the human world. Twilight answers that the human world doesn’t need Windegos to spread about distrust and discord, as demonstrated by the abuse of social media, and encourages her to stay strong and “find your family”. After the entire school joins in on taunting Sunset and reducing her to tears, she thinks on what Twilight says and meets the girls at the coffee shop, where she shows them what Twilight has been writing in the journal to get them to reluctantly give her a berth. Soon after, she manages to deduce who the real culprits are just as they finally have a crisis of conscience and walk in to confess of their own volition: the humanized Cutie Mark Crusaders. Jealous of the Humane Five spending time with Sunset Shimmer instead of them, they created Anon-a-miss to get the girls to break off their friendship with her, but ended up posting negative content about everyone as well when things got out of hand. Sunset and the girls end up forgiving the CMCs, who publicly confess to everything, take down the account, and receive six months suspension. The Humane Six decide to invite the CMCs along with them to the holiday party at Sweet Apple Acres so they don’t feel left out, noting that with family “there’s always room for more”.

Review:

If you’re a fan of “One Piece”, you may like the series…but you know the Skypeia arc was pretty bad. If you’re a fan of “Star Trek”, you may like most of the movies…but you know the fifth movie was trash. If you’re a fan of “Sonic the Hedgehog”, you may like the games in general…but you know the 2006 game was terrible.

And if you’re a fan of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, you may like most of it and the IDW comic…but you have…this.

Before I begin, I’ll start by acknowledging some people actually like this story. Some people even like it a lot. And that’s fine because all art is subjective and you might see things in it that I don’t. But if that’s you, you should probably leave right now. As for me and my personal opinion? (Starts the pilot light on a flamethrower)

Buckle yourselves in.

As with the Annual #1, this special is solidly grounded in “reality”. It could very easily be a perfectly realistic story if not for the few panels that show the pony Twilight Sparkle receiving Sunset Shimmer’s journal entries. No magic in this one, villains or otherwise. Similar to Annual #1, that kind of puts it in an odd camp to begin with. Because there’s only so many Equestria Girls movies, almost all of them have to be the more “drama-based” type of episode rather than the “friendship problem” ones in at least some way. It’s a bit interesting that the comic decided to go with that when the comic has more of a reputation for drama-based episodes. I personally thought they might have gone with a human-transformed Windego, especially as it was hinted at mid-story. Instead, well…we’ll get to that in a second.

What they went with was still ok, though, because they don’t have a chance to do many episodes like that in the series. And early on, it looked like it was going to be pretty heartwarming and cute. Sunset Shimmer had become the show’s newest ensemble darkhorse (pardon the pun) following “Rainbow Rocks”, and the chance for her to get to have a nice holiday with her friends looked like it would make a nice little tale.

Then, of course, things start going wrong…and they just keep going downhill from there.

Initially, I don’t mind the conflict that much. I realized someone was trying to frame Sunset pretty early, obviously. And I thought it would cause a bit of contention. Now if it had stayed mild, if it had caused the Humane Five to doubt Sunset, maybe even start mistrusting her a little or express some anger, that would have been one thing. Yet it quickly becomes worse than that. After only the second incident, the Humane Five outright reject Sunset completely and kick her out of their lives.

One can make the argument that the girls still have “a lot to forgive” Sunset for, although by the beginning of “Rainbow Rocks” it seemed as if the girls had already forgiven her and the one person who still needed to forgive someone was Sunset…needing to forgive herself. And unlike the situation with Starlight Glimmer, a lot of “Rainbow Rocks” was devoted to how much effort Sunset made to try the monumental task of remaking her image in the face of the very individuals she tormented…something that few people in this world would be willing to try.  And aside from that, the girls had gone the extra step in this story. They called Sunset more than their friend. They called her family. The very fact she was being welcomed into their homes in this series of slumber parties was to make her feel like she had a family in the human world. So…there is some validity to the complaint that the girls were too quick to outright shut Sunset out, and even that it was almost OOC of them to do so. That if they were serious about everything they said, they owed her the benefit of the doubt or a chance to prove herself. Instead…

“Maybe…even family can make mistakes.” “Maybe. I don’t know if you can forgive them though.”

Remember this in a second.

I didn’t think it was too bad at this point, though. Everything would be made right in the end, I knew, and the girls would apologize for having doubted Sunset, Sunset would say she understood based on her past, and the holidays would still be great. Yet things kept getting worse.

Not only do the Humane Five fail to think maybe they mistreated Sunset as time goes on, but the situation becomes worse than ever as everyone gets turned against each other by the gossip and newsmongering of “Anon-a-miss”. Now, everyone turns against Sunset. This is dark. In fact, it’s possibly the darkest the series has ever been because it’s something completely real. It’s cyberbullying at its worst, and yet Sunset Shimmer is ironically the worst victim of it all as everything is being pinned on her. The worst part about cyberbullying is it’s an infectious cancer of poison impossible to remove. Once a secret is out on the Internet, it is out there forever. It can’t be reined in. And it spreads like a plague. Yet Sunset gets the worst of it. Someone has stolen her identity to make all of these posts, so she can’t get away by staying offline. She has no family (or home, really) to run to in the world. Her friends were the first to be poisoned against her, so she has no one to go to or talk to except Twilight Sparkle.

It’s terrible because it’s a nightmare from real life. Now, of course, Sunset Shimmer was guilty of three years of cyberbullying. I suppose some individuals would make the argument that this was “karma” for her.  But most of us, myself included, had seen the other side of Sunset Shimmer and saw this as simply cruel.

By this point in the story, I was beginning to think like Sunset. I figured this had to be a humanized Windego. There was no other explanation, after all. Who else would have had access to her phone? Who would have known their secrets? No one…at least no one who I knew would be cruel enough for that. Even if they wanted to hurt Sunset Shimmer, there was NO character around who would want to see the whole school tearing itself up to do it. So the only logical conclusion was there was a monster somewhere the girls would have to fight, and I waited for that.

And then, at long last, came the big moment. I noticed in the exchange with the Humane Five at the coffee shop, all of them are still giving Sunset the cold shoulder. Even with Twilight’s comments vouching for her innocence, they seem to only be willing to listen to her because of Twilight…not because they’ve softened to her in the least. Applejack outright states she doesn’t trust Sunset anymore when they’re trying to figure out the culprit. And who does it end up being?

The moment the villains (note no quotation marks…because they were the worst villains in possibly the entire series at that point) are revealed, this entire story becomes bad fanfiction: the type with “Ron the Death Eater”. I don’t know what the writers were thinking or how they could be so naive to make light of everything that happened in this story. The fact that the humanized Cutie Mark Crusaders would do such a thing makes them the most despicable characters in the comic franchise. It was bad enough that they were trying to drive a wedge between her and the girls. It’s worse when they wanted her destroyed.

The CMCs were turning everyone against Sunset Shimmer. They tried to make her the most hated individual in the school. And even when they saw the school starting to eat itself alive, they kept going. Why? Pure sadistic glee. No, I’m serious. That’s the only explanation. This wasn’t like “Ponyville Confidential” where they were attracted by fame and later coerced by their unscrupulous editor. They felt making the lives of their own sisters and friends hell and making the school eat itself alive like in the days before Twilight Sparkle was all acceptable so long as they could make Sunset suffer and drive her away. All motivated by pure jealousy. That’s…despicable. Monstrous.

And, of course, it gets worse from there. Everyone immediately forgives the CMCs completely. Right. Why?

“‘Course I forgive you, Apple Bloom. You’re family.”

Yeah, remember this earlier?

“Maybe…even family can make mistakes.” “Maybe. I don’t know if you can forgive them though.”

Sunset had the biggest right to carry a grudge. About the one virtue of this story is that it shows her Element probably really is Forgiveness/Empathy because she does immediately forgive the CMCs. But the Humane Five…what a bunch of two-faced creeps. They treated Sunset like she was a leper no matter how much she pleaded and begged them to believe her because they felt so backstabbed and betrayed. Yet they instantly just smile, shake their heads, and say “what are we going to do with you?” to the CMCs?

I already said it. Cyberbullying is a cancer. So is gossip. Everything they put out there isn’t going to “go away” because they said sorry. And it won’t go away from taking down the account, publicly confessing, or getting suspensions either. That’s why cyberbullying is so hideously evil–it can’t be fully undone. Part of it will linger forever. Can you forgive a cyberbully if they’ve done absolutely everything they could to try and undo it, like the CMCs did? Yes…it might take some strength of character that’s not common, but yes. Will you trust them as easily from now on? Probably not for some time.

The school literally formed a mob to bully Sunset Shimmer because they thought she was the culprit. Do you think that sort of anger is going to subside just like that for the CMCs now that they admitted to the truth?

The message the story was giving there was that cyberbullying is evil but can be undone, which is not only inaccurate it’s irresponsible. The real message should have been cyberbullying is horrible…so never do it. Period. Kids have refused to go to school, had plastic surgery, and even committed suicide over cyberbullying. There’s nothing “light” about it.

And it gets worse. A story that centered so much on the torment Sunset had to go through and emphasizing the evils of cyberbullying and the need to be responsible with social media…suddenly shifts it all to a lesson about Sunset and the Humane Five being in the wrong for not including the CMCs all along.

The one problem the writers of the IDW Comic seem to share along with those of the show is that there is such thing as a Moral Event Horizon. It is possible to do something so despicable and depraved that extenuating circumstances can no longer be used not only as an excuse but even as a reason for pity. Bit of a background story…when Marvel published the end of the infamous “Dark Phoenix Saga” of the X-Men, there was considerable debate among the writers as to whether or not Jean Grey should live at the end; enough to where two separate cover arts of the next issue were done, one with a happy ending and one with a sad one. Ultimately, they decided on death. Why? Because it didn’t matter if Jean fully regained control and maintained it for the rest of her life, never hurting another living thing again. She had murdered five billion people just for fun. That sort of thing couldn’t be overlooked.

It was bad the girls weren’t included, yes, but it was even worse how they responded. They created a hundred fold worse bad blood for it and they tried to drive the school to run Sunset out of town. And even when things were getting out of hand they wouldn’t stop. It almost looks as if they threw in the CMCs apologizing at the last minute as an aside rather than a confrontation, as it happens at the exact same time Sunset deduces it was them. And they had to do that, because otherwise the CMCs would have been totally irredeemable…as opposed to about 95% irredeemable. :/

And still it gets worse than that. The CMCs end up apologizing to the girls for the most part…not to Sunset. They seem to be more upset about what happened to their sisters and the school rather than her. Granted, there is a panel where Sweetie Belle explicitly apologizes to Sunset directly, but that gets negated a moment later by her saying: “We had no idea what would happen to you!”

No, writers. No. They knew exactly what would happen.

That was the whole point. Apple Bloom said this was all about jealousy. They wanted revenge not for anything Sunset did but for the mere fact that their sisters liked her. They were trying to drive her away by making her friends hate her so that they’d kick her out. Heck, on reread, you see Apple Bloom not only drew attention to Anon-a-miss to begin with and planted the idea in Applejack’s mind that Sunset had betrayed her, but she went even more Shakespearian by planting the idea of exposing Applejack’s bad nickname at the start. She purposely said that over the phone so that the girls would overhear, Applejack would be forced to explain, and that night she could write the story. And if they really hated it, again, like I said earlier, why not stop? They were under no compulsion to do so. They simply kept posting bad content and secrets people sent them…why? Because they were sadistic monsters, I guess.

Everything happened exactly the way the CMCs wanted it to. The only excuse you can plausibly make is they finally had a crisis of conscience on seeing Sunset in tears and realized they weren’t driving away some unfeeling creature but they were hurting someone extremely badly. That…might have been passable as a lesson. But that’s not what happened. Not only is that not emphasized, but, again, the Humane Six are made to look like the ones in the wrong for not including them.

Finally, the icing on the cake. After the way Sunset was treated so unjustly, after her friends disowned her for something that wasn’t even her fault, after she was left in tears because they wouldn’t give her even the benefit of the doubt, after they treated her like a outcast and yelled at her to get out of the coffee shop, not one…not ONE…member of the Humane Six says so much as “sorry” to Sunset. They owed her an apology for doubting her. A BIG one. The fact they didn’t give it, well…let’s just say it’s a good thing the CMCs are the hate sink in this one.

The only explanation I can think for this is that the concept started going into play before “Rainbow Rocks” came out, and it seems supported by the ending message being given by Rarity and Sunset only appearing in the background after focusing the rest of the entire story on her…which is yet another problem. It probably was originally supposed to center on the CMCs and the Humane Five. But when the writers saw that Sunset Shimmer would have to be worked in, it turned into this abomination.

I can’t even articulate how much I dislike this. I spent days thinking of the best way to sum it up. To paraphrase another reviewer’s thoughts, this is a holiday special that has little to do with the holidays and almost nothing to do with “good will toward men and women”. On my part, this is like “Ponyville Confidential”, which was already a heavily disliked episode, only taking everything bad in that one and making it worse. Everything is off on it. The characters are OOC. The motivations are weak. The actions are unjustified. The theme is portrayed too mature while it’s handled too lightly. It’s unfocused at the end. The villains are made too heavy and get off too light. The conflict isn’t properly resolved. The message is muddled and misleading. Rather than leaving this story feeling encouraged or happy about the holidays, I left feeling sore, uncertain, and disliking the Humane Five. The sad part is this is probably the only real comic treatment Sunset Shimmer will ever get as, along with Fiendship is Magic #3 and Annual #1, this is the only time anything from the Equestria Girls movies ever appeared in the comic.

I’m sure if you like this comic you’re not even reading this anymore, but if you are I can see that there are some parts in this that can be fixated on to like, but to me only if I blot a lot of things from my conscious memory. I was able to overlook quite a bit in “The Cutie Re-Mark” by the time Season Seven rolled around but I still had to “overlook” it. This storyline has too much going bad for that. And, for me personally, it only deserves one rating.

Congratulations, Holiday Special 2014. When it comes to “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, you are, at least to me, the worst of the worst.

Fun Facts:

Tony Fleecs did art for both Annual #1 as well as this issue, and for this issue he basically took the same art for Annual #1, replaced Twilight Sparkle with Sunset Shimmer, and made the rest winter-themed.

Although the Equestria Girls franchise is set in a world of humans…MySpace is still MyStable… O_o

At the time that this issue came out, Season Six’s “Flutter Brutter” was still almost a year and a half away. Fluttershy’s family gets incidentally omitted from any description or inclusion.

Although this comic came out almost four months after “Rainbow Rocks”, it’s likely production on it had to begin before the film came out. That’s the only excuse I can find for some of it…and one of the indicators is that Sunset doesn’t know what slumber parties are like although she attended the one in “Rainbow Rocks”.

Fluttershy, when playing the game, says for her character to use its “limit break”. “Limit breaks” are moves specific to the Final Fantasy series of video games.

The humanized gremlins appear…again…

It wouldn’t be all the way until Season Seven’s Equestria Girls short “Monday Blues” that we would finally see that Sunset Shimmer does indeed have a place to live in the human world. In this story, interestingly enough, Sunset Shimmer is depicted as sleeping in the library like Twilight Sparkle had to.

Although they aren’t real, this issue features a depiction of humanized Windegos.

One of the text boxes reads “this sucks”…a slip-up on the part of censors.

Rating:

0 Stars out of 5