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Synopsis:

The Rainbooms have been working a series of fund raisers to help pay for repairs to Camp Everfree (apparently the fund raiser in the previous film was just to keep the park from closing), yet in spite of all of their efforts have only come up with half of the needed amount. Rarity gets the idea that they can possibly win more than twice the amount necessary by winning the local Canterlot Mall Chance-to-Prance competition by submitting the best dancing music video to an original song. While she’s sure the concept she has will win (everyone dressed and dancing to different genres), she’ll have to use all of the money they have currently saved to make the costumes and design. The girls reluctantly consent to the plan, which soon turns into disaster. Not only are none of the girls good dancers, but Rarity inadvertently tells four of the Crystal Prep Academy students (Sour Sweet, Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat, and Lemon Zest) her idea for the music video, and they steal it for their own. When Rarity tries to confront them, they boast that they already submitted the idea and that if the Rainbooms try to do the same they’ll look like they stole the idea. After failing to brainstorm a new idea, a miserable Rarity tries to drown her sorrows in ice cream at the local cafe only to overhear the Crystal Prep students nearby–they too are in fact stuck and haven’t submitted their video since they can’t write an original song, and are fearful they’ll let their own class down after promising they’d win the competition so they could hold the Spring Dance on a yacht. Realizing the two sides both have good intentions, Rarity approaches the Crystal Prep students and, after some discussion, they decide if they work together (with the Rainbooms helping the Crystal Prep students with the song and the Crystal Prep students helping them with the dance steps) they can both come out ahead. The girls agree and put out a video called: “Dance Magic”, which wins. The two sides split the winnings and the Rainboom and Crystal Prep students form a new friendship, with Rarity and Sour Sweet talking about plans for future collaboration.

Review:

Close to the middle of Season Seven, the mid-season hiatus was replaced by a great deal of Equestria Girls content. While the month of August 2017 was devoted to airings of the latest shorts, rather than release a new movie three standard-episode-length Equestria Girls specials ran one week after another during July.

After watching the specials, I have a few theories as to why that happened. While the Equestria Girls movies were originally released to compete with Ever After High and Monster High, since then I believe enough of the older bronies have latched onto it and its numerous knockoffs of magical girl series to give the show makers the dilemma of whether or not it should follow the vibe of something like the Miraculous Ladybug or other magical girl series, which traditionally are more toward the Y7 crowd or older. While I get the sense that Equestria Girls “wants” to become something of the latter, with the demographic that there would be a new Villain-of-the-Week corrupted by Equestrian magic who needs to be stopped and taught the “power of friendship” by the Humane Seven in every episode, it still seems reluctant to give up its roots of more friendship problem-like episodes. Hence, we got an odd three specials rather than a movie with a continuous narrative. And of the three, “Dance Magic”, to me, is the oddest of the bunch.

I’m not sure how to best characterize this special. It has the feel of either being a short that was too long to be a short, or a “regular” episode that ended up feeling too much like early episodes to merit being done again. On the second viewing, I lean more toward the latter. The bulk of this special feels a lot like “Rarity Takes Manehattan” all over again, and note that Sunset Shimmer has so little to do in it that she seems almost inserted into the background in about half of the episode as a last minute animator’s addition.

Compared to other Equestria Girls content until now, this one felt highly awkward for one specific reason: it highlighted humanized Rarity. That would be no big deal if it was a regular series, if it was one of the regular episodes, or even if it was a short. Yet to suddenly have a “special” that was focusing on a normal friendship problem with humanized Rarity, I definitely felt a sense of disconnect.

Aside from that, I wasn’t too big on the plotline. Like I said, it seemed like “Rarity Takes Manehattan” all over again, and I suspect another last-minute edit avoided that. Most of the episode is Flanderization of the Crystal Prep students. I know some people like them and some people hate them, but they never seemed as outright mean and smug in “Friendship Games” as they seemed here. Lemon Zest, for example, seemed to be nothing more than an alternate version of DJ-Pon-3. It seems awkward to see her “maniacally snickering” in the background during Rarity’s confrontation. Sour Sweet is probably the most “like her or hate her” out of the Crystal Prep students, but she seemed both more subdued in her normal sarcasm as well more overtly devious.

What broke this off from “Rarity Takes Manehattan” was the last section of the episode, naturally. The “spirit” of it actually intrigued me. A lot of competitions in TV and movies get you to want to “root for your team” while portraying the other side as something more cold or smug. In reality, in any competition, the other team wants to win just as badly for much the same reason your team does. And I thought it was an interesting moment of empathy when Rarity has pity on the Crystal Prep students in spite of them stealing her idea.

Still, even that seemed a little out of left field. Sour Sweet’s personality did a 180. Where before she was Flanderized toward the “sour” half, now she’s Flanderized toward the “sweet” half; showing she actually acts encouraging, determined, and devoted to her classmates. She outright says she stole the idea from Rarity believing Rarity had enough creativity to come up with one just as good. Even her signature sarcasm disappears, making it look as if this is almost an “act” she puts on for people who aren’t in her confidence. Yet even the others suddenly become much nicer to a point of OOCness (even Lemon Zest ends up stating the brutal consequences of what will happen if Crystal Prep loses rather than Sugarcoat). Normally I might say this is a good move, as it shows that even the “bad guys” have more sympathetic and kind sides when it comes to their own. But the problem is “Friendship Games” emphasized that Crystal Prep students were only concerned with their own success and only cared about what others could do to bring them that. These versions of the Crystal Prep students I can see back in the Friendship Games clapping and encouraging Sci-Twi to hit the target. Granted, they did change at the end of the Friendship Games…but if that’s the case, then how can we swallow them tricking Rarity and stealing their idea? Fluttershy even directly says you can’t have expected them to change that much after one incident (which, interestingly, is a nod to Season Seven’s “Fame and Misfortune”).

So do I hate it? No…but it is a mess. Just a little mess, granted. Not nearly as bad as other ones. I didn’t care much for “Dance Magic” the first time I heard it, and my favorite song from the Equestria Girls this season is “Monday Blues”, but it was nice on rehearing it. And I appreciate they didn’t go for the obvious at the end, even if it was forced, and ended up having the two teams work together rather than have the Rainbooms pull out a last-minute victory.  As a result, this special…just manages to break even to me.

Fun Facts:

What might be the most unrealistic part of the specials is that teenagers still spend so much time in malls. 😛

At one point, Sci-Twi shakes her head, and the animation has her eyes in her glasses lenses remain flat as they would if someone really wearing glasses was to do that. It’s a nice little detail I appreciate.

Indigo Zap is conspicuously missing from the Crystal Prep girls, which is a little surprising as she’s voiced by Kelly Sheridan, the same voice actor who does Starlight Glimmer.

Mention is made that former Dean Cadance has taken over for former Principal Abacus Cinch at Crystal Prep Academy, making Cadance the “ruler” of the “Crystal Empire” in the human world as well.

Rarity has a customized director’s chair.

Opalescence is also unchanged in the human world, just like Angel Bunny. Also, Rarity doesn’t have any magic to pull a “fainting couch” toward her. She has to get the girls to come to her room to throw herself on one. 😛

In Applejack’s “concept”, Sunset Shimmer is the only one who dresses in black.

The shadow that appears in Rainbow Dash’s idea is of Ahuizotl. The mention of Daring Do is one of the few details that connects this special to the next two.

I thought it’s kind of odd that Rarity actually audibly says “nom-nom-nom” when stuffing her face with ice cream.

The girls “pony-up” for the music video.

Pinkie Pie puts on the same rap getup she wore in Season Four’s “Testing, Testing, 1 2 3”.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

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