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Synopsis:

Shining Armor is just finishing up his research for a diplomatic mission he and Princess Cadance plan to take to Yakyakistan following the events of “Party Pooped”, intending to start a new trade agreement with the nation. Unfortunately, Cadance and the rest of the alicorn princesses are called off on an emergency, so instead Princess Celestia sends Prince Blueblood along with him so that they aren’t forced to insult the Yaks by canceling the meeting. Shining Armor is immediately put off and angered by Blueblood’s conceited and self-absorbed behavior, as well as his shirking of any physical activity and constantly acting like an elitist snob, and in addition to getting angry at his behavior he fears that his attitude will ruin the trade agreement. As a result, on arriving at Yakyakistan, he tells him to sit things out while he handles everything, which he reluctantly acquiesces to. Unfortunately, everything Shining Armor does insults or angers the Yaks and the talks are soon a disaster. Feeling hopeless, he finally agrees to stand out and let Blueblood try his hand, expecting things can’t get worse, only to find that he easily wins over the Yaks and handles the trade agreements perfectly; managing to get the Crystal Empire and Yakyakistan on good terms at the end to boot. Shining Armor realizes that an individuals’ attitude or personality doesn’t mean that they aren’t specially talented at certain things, and, on the way back to the Crystal Empire, ends up asking Blueblood to teach him to be a better diplomat, which he agrees to so long as he doesn’t mind the “hard work”.

Review:

This one was quite interesting. More interesting than many of the Friends Forever issues.

Probably the only character that the IDW writers would hate to have to deal with more than the pre-“COTLM” Diamond Tiara would be Prince Blueblood. He had only a single real appearance in the main series, in which his self-centered attitude transformed him into Rarity’s date from Hell. A pretty much one-note character designed to be a snob. To be honest, he was also something of an enigma, as he is canonically Celestia’s “nephew” but it’s unclear exactly how that works out. Certainly not a character one would think to include in an arc in the comic, let alone the show.

But, ironically, pairing him with Shining Armor, the only other “Equestrian Prince”, was a move that could be more than a bit interesting. Before Shining Armor started to Flanderize in Season Six, he could be viewed as everything opposite of what Blueblood was like. Yet as both are princes, they’d be expected to interact at one point, and what better place than the Friends Forever comic?

How did it work out here?

Well, let’s start with the bad stuff. On rereading, it’s clear that Shining Armor as a diplomat was another snafu on the part of Equestrian Royalty. All he ended up doing was almost ruining everything, including by “being himself” as Cadance had suggested. The resolution to this arc figured, but it was the opposite extreme in which Shining Armor ended up being totally useless to the trade agreement.

Second…the yaks. Ugh. They were no one’s favorite characters in “Party Pooped”, and this storyline, which in many ways is “Party Pooped” all over again, did nothing to help with that. I get the sense that the yaks were meant to be a lesson in respecting other cultures no matter how strange and different and the danger of “faux pas” when interacting with another culture…but let’s be honest. The yaks are aggressive brutes. It’s not like the Equestrians aren’t constantly doing everything they can to try and be polite and respectful to them, only for the yaks to constantly find reasons to be big dumb animals. Perhaps they’re a lesson that sometimes the price of multiple nations living together in peace is having to bend over backward to keep from insulting another country, but if it is it’s going to leave the audience disliking diversity more than ever.

Now, all that out of the way…

This Friends Forever ended up having a rather surprising friendship lesson in it that most children’s orientated shows and literature aren’t realistic enough to address. Most people in my generation were brought up being taught subconsciously by everything in media that if someone is detestable as a person that also means that they are terrible at everything else. You can’t be a good politician, businessman, community organizer, lawyer, doctor, chef, or anything else unless you are also in possession of a good personality. If you’re a jerk, you no good at anything unless you’re also underhanded and shameful about it. We expect a person’s talents in life to stem from their individual personality and morality, perhaps because we’re taught to believe that people who are personally “bad” can’t ever succeed in life compared to someone who is “good”.

The reality is that’s not in the least bit true. You can be a bold-faced jackass and still be great at what you do. Steve Jobs comes to mind. He was a brilliant leader of the Apple company, but personally he was a jerk and a cutthroat. But everyone wants to focus either on one side of him or the other, because that makes him “easier to digest” and put into a box.

Shining Armor clearly thought of Prince Blueblood as a selfish snob who would ruin the trade agreement and had no love for him. The irony is that, in doing so, Shining Armor became a snob himself. He inherently thought his own more considerate nature to his subjects and “down-to-earth” roots made him naturally better at being able to connect with others and therefore he would be the better diplomat. All without knowing anything about Blueblood other than his few over-the-top mannerisms. And the fact of the matter is while Blueblood does come off as an egotistical prude more than once, he’s actually fairly mannerly and friendly to Shining Armor through all of it. It’s Shining Armor who starts giving him the cold shoulder first, and when he not-so-subtly indicates he thinks so little of him that he thinks he’s a bad diplomat, when Blueblood knows full well he’s the experienced diplomat while Shining Armor is the greenhorn, he humbly accepts it and stands aside until Shining Armor is ready to say “uncle” of his own volition.

From a personality standpoint? Honestly…Shining Armor and Prince Blueblood are pretty much morally “equal” in this one.

And at the end of it? The issue makes Blueblood look a bit better than how the show treated him, and even indicates that he and Shining Armor might indeed end up forming a bit of a friendship between them. Yet all of it’s plausible and, while surprising, rather fitting along with the unusual-yet-relevant lesson.

I…actually like that quite a bit. This is probably one of the most clever plotlines the IDW writers have come up with.

If it wasn’t for my two complaints, I’d actually be tempted to give this one a 4 out of 5. As it is, I think it’s definitely one of the better entries in the Friends Forever series.

Fun Facts:

Although he’s made a background appearance or two, this is Prince Blueblood’s only other speaking role since Season One’s “The Best Night Ever”.

This issue is a follow up to Season Five’s “Party Pooped”, and at the time was only the second appearance ever of the Yaks and Yakyakistan. While Season Seven’s “Not Asking for Trouble” would show all yaks live in yurt-inspired structures, in this issue they actually have a palace.

Blueblood makes a meta-humor joke about there being so few princes. 😛

While it has yet to be stated on the show itself, in the expanded universe novels and lore it’s canon that Cadance was originally a pegasus who was adopted by Celestia after becoming an alicorn at a young age. Blueblood refers to Shining Armor meeting Cadance while she was still an orphan and, apparently, a pegasus, but this is an error as even in IDW Comic lore Shining Armor didn’t fall for her until she was in teenage years and already an alicorn and royalty.

Shining Armor’s cold-weather attire is both a throwback to Season Three’s “The Crystal Empire” as well as a nod to Luke Skywalker’s garb in “The Empire Strikes Back”.

In a unique turn, the story ends with Shining Armor writing a letter to Celestia. Weird.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5