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Synopsis:

At Canterlot High School, Sunset Shimmer, who has retained position of President of the Yearbook Committee and Editor-in-Chief since her days when she was still a bully, is finishing up getting the results for the “superlatives” for this year’s edition. She’s pleased to learn that she and the rest of the Humane Seven have been named “Best Friends”, but Trixie is outraged that she was not voted “Greatest and Most Powerful-est” (in spite of the fact that was never a category) and vows revenge. The girls decide to take their group photo using Twilight Sparkle’s new drone camera tomorrow at a beach outing for the yearbook, and that night Sunset writes to the Equestrian Twilight Sparkle thanking her for giving her the second chance that turned her into who she is today. The next day, however, when Sunset arrives at the beach, the rest of her friends act cold, afraid, and hostile to her. On touching them, she realizes the girls have had their memories of her erased.

On further learning the only memories any of the girls have of her is of her being cruel, mean, and deceptive, Sunset writes to the Equestrian Twilight and is relieved to discover she still remembers her “being nice”. Sunset returns to Equestria to try and find out how the Humane Six lost their memories and, unable to help her alone, Twilight takes her to Princess Celestia; leading the two to finally reconcile. Celestia and Luna, in turn, take the two to the forbidden section of the Canterlot Library, where they find a record from Clover the Clever in the pre-Equestria era of an old pony sorceress who used a magical item called the Memory Stone to erase memories and fragments of memories from her victims. The records show Clover was able to thwart her attempts to erase his own memory by keeping records of everything she erased, and eventually chased her through a portal before the record abruptly ends; indicating Clover hid the rest to keep anyone from finding the stone. Sunset believes the stone was hidden in the human world and a human has uncovered it and used it against her.

Sunset returns to the human world while Equestrian Twilight continues her research, attempting to convince the girls through photographs that her claims of their friendship are real, but not only are the photos dismissed as forgeries but she is falsely accused of intentionally breaking Human Twilight’s drone camera when she accidentally steps on it. When Sunset sees Trixie is still trying to get into the yearbook, she suspects her of having the stone and using it as revenge for not including her superlative and confronts her in the school hallway. Trixie ends up being clueless about the entire matter, but on overhearing Sunset talk about how she knows she’s one type of way yet everyone in school sees her differently, she sympathizes with her considering her own attempts to constantly be “great and powerful” and believes her story. She agrees to help Sunset find the true culprit in exchange for getting put in the yearbook. Meanwhile, Equestrian Twilight finds Clover’s missing record showing the stone was buried in a circle of three rocks, but also discovers that erased memories are gone permanently if they stay removed for three days.

Sunset and Trixie go about the school but are unable to find anyone who looks like a potential suspect. Finally, they are down to only one student left to investigate: Wallflower Blush, a quiet, introverted member of Sunset’s own yearbook committee and the sole member of the Gardening Club, who is so unremarkable that she constantly goes unnoticed and forgotten by everyone (including Sunset and Trixie). At that point, Twilight writes back to Sunset with the news of the rock formation and the warning that the stone has to be destroyed by sunset that day. On seeing that Wallflower’s desktop background is of the rock formation, she touches Wallflower and discovers she accidentally discovered the Memory Stone and used it to remove everyone’s positive memories of Sunset. She angrily confronts her and demands to know what she did to her to cause her to do this to her, to which Wallflower angrily responds that, to her, Sunset never changed at all: she ignored her completely as a bully and she continued to ignore her completely as everyone’s “best friend”, and that she erased everyone’s memories so that everyone would see her the same way she does–as”the biggest meanie”. Before Sunset and Trixie can stop her, she uses the stone to erase their memory of the entire encounter and leaves them locked in the editing room.

Sunset, however, took a cue from Clover the Clever and left herself a note to check Twilight’s broken drone’s camera, which she set to record the moment before she confronted Wallflower. After watching the footage, Trixie gets Sunset to realize Wallflower had a point, and Sunset mentions that even when everyone hates her permanently tomorrow she’ll still have one friend in her. This, however, emboldens Trixie enough to try out one of her “escape artist tricks”, which manages to get Sunset free. She runs out to confront Wallflower again, but this time does so in front of the rest of the Humane Seven and, in the ensuing confrontation, Wallflower accidentally blurts out that she did indeed erase their memories of Sunset. Infuriated that her plan to get back at Sunset has been exposed and determined to make her suffer, Wallflower moves to erase the Humane Six’s memories of high school all together. Realizing that will destroy their friendships with each other, Sunset jumps into the path of the attack rather than let herself be the cause of breaking up their friendship a second time. Sunset’s own memories of high school (and, ergo, the entire human world and living as a human) are erased, but on seeing her sacrifice for them the rest of the girls finally believe that she’s really their friend and are still able to unite with her to “pony up” and destroy the Memory Stone before sunset. Everyone’s memories are restored and Wallflower, after seeing firsthand what her desire for revenge did to Sunset, repents of her own behavior. As it turns out, however, Sunset apologizes to her for never being a good friend. As Sunset writes to Equestrian Twilight about the stone’s destruction, she reveals she made amends by including Wallflower on a page in the yearbook for the Gardening Club, as well as gave Trixie her full page superlative for “Greatest and Most Powerful-est”.

Review:

The “Equestria Girls” franchise, by most estimates, was undergoing a degeneration until this special. No one really liked the original, but “Rainbow Rocks” blew everyone away with one of the show’s greatest ensemble darkhorses: Sunset Shimmer elevated from generic villain to deuteragonist. “Friendship Games” was considered by most fans to be lesser by comparison, and “Legend of Everfree” paled compared to that. The three 22 minute specials were rather unremarkable as well, especially among those who disliked Starlight Glimmer as “Mirror Magic” made it look as if she was going to shanghai the EG universe just as she was accused of doing the same to the main series. Even ignoring that, continuous generic plotlines with one-dimensional villains who “just needed a friend” led the entire series to feeling like it was more or less copies of each previous one with slight modifications.

By comparison, the shorts featured on Youtube were a bit better received as they were small vignettes that allowed the individual girls to shine in different situations rather than have most of the Humane Seven squashed into a “character lump” while one or two other characters did everything. Yet once again, the shorts shined when they went to the star of the EG series, Sunset Shimmer. Through them, Sunset has been revealed to be a multi-faceted, oddly pragmatic, and lovable character…especially in ones like “My Past is Not Today”, “Monday Blues”, and “Rarity’s Display of Affection”.

It seems only natural that what would get the “Equestria Girls” franchise back on track would be a special devoted to everyone’s favorite bacon-headed girl.

“Forgotten Friendship” was widely loved by the fan base, and with good reason. Not only was this special a bit of a departure from the normal fare, but it also was a bit more “mature” than those others. It relied a lot heavier on character and internal conflict rather than on a lot of magic and colorful pictures and action sequences. In that sense alone, the new Y7 rating was justified. This special was good in the same way that “The Perfect Pear” was good–the story is great but really little kids likely won’t understand why.

Going with that, this is a special that focused more on a theme and concept rather than an overt tangible antagonist (although there was one of those too): namely the idea of how much of our own identity is, ironically, shaped by the perception of others toward us. Most of us work very hard to make sure people only see the “best” side of us, and if we do something wrong we work even harder to try and show off so much good that people will forget those moments. Sunset is caught in the situation of what would happen if all anyone could remember about them was everything bad they had ever done. The end result is a look at just how much of ourselves we define based on the reaction of others, and what sort of existential crises might result. (There are a number of times in the episode Sunset begins to revert to her old way of acting as a result of being treated like her old self.) The lesson Sunset herself learns (Can you really go around calling yourself a good person if all you are is “not mean” to people?) even goes back into that–causing her to ask herself if it really matters if the school gives her an award for a superlative when she personally knows she didn’t live up to that standard.

Some fans might have thought making Trixie be the surprise co-star of this special was just to capitalize on her newer, more prominent role in the main series. Since she’s Starlight’s friend now, they decided to make her Sunset’s friend. I…disagree. Going with the theme of the special, she belongs here. As is pointed out, Trixie is the very poster child of an individual who is constantly trying to make herself into a better individual by making herself appear to everyone as a greater individual. She always fails at it, but…in spite of continuously failing, she always sees herself personally as “great and powerful” even if no one else does and never gives up trying to promote that view. In that odd way, for all of her obnoxiousness, selfishness, childishness, and pettiness…Trixie is rather endearing and even slightly admirable. It’s something of the same deal as with Wile E. Coyote or Team Rocket: you admire a character for never giving up or abandoning who they are.

Wallflower Blush ended up being one of the more popular EG villains as well. While I’m pretty sure the Dazzlings still hold Number One, I’d place her up there with Midnight Sparkle in a tie. While Midnight Sparkle definitely has more charisma, in terms of realism and motivation it goes to Wallflower. Since “Rainbow Rocks”, the villains were pretty much cookie cutouts: character who doesn’t rely on friendship acquires Equestrian magic, ends up misusing it and being corrupted, turns into a monster, and gets blasted into submission/tearful apologies by the Humane Seven. Wallflower Blush…didn’t really break the mold, but she did “deform” it quite a bit.

On the spectrum of villains, there’s multiple axes to consider. Most modern ones place villains on the range from “True Villain” to “Anti-Villain”, dividing villains between those who are genuinely evil and those who are pretty much just confused or misguided individuals with good intentions. A different spectrum not often considered is motivation. Even if a villain does something genuinely cruel and malicious out of spite or hostility, there are some with such good motivation that we can’t help but admit we might have done the same thing. Wallflower isn’t quite to that extreme, but she’s close. Most fans of the show probably couldn’t identify with Gloriosa Daisy or Juniper Montage, but a lot of them have experienced feelings of invisibility or the dehumanization of being part of the high school crowd. In Wallflower’s case, she was an individual who had done a lot of work toward digging the hole she found herself in. The flashbacks reveal she didn’t make a ton of effort to try and join in at parties or social gatherings, and later she reveals that she erased memories of anything she had ever done to stand out…ironically making herself invisible as those would have been the things that would have made her stand out in people’s memories. Nevertheless, the fact remains Sunset never noticed her as a bully and never noticed her as a good friend either, so from her perspective Sunset never changed at all. So to see someone who you remember being a tyrant and a brat be loved and admired by everyone while you yourself, having never done anything cruel to anyone, still remain ignored by everyone?

The other part of this is that Wallflower shares something with older EG villains: egocentricity. She tends to see the world only from her perspective. She’s not as overt or obnoxious about it as other villains were so it doesn’t stand out, but it’s clear based on the episode. Wallflower continues to act the same way around Sunset in the editing room in spite of the fact she knows what she did to her. She describes the entire thing as trying to “teach her a lesson”. It heavily indicates that Wallflower does not realize just how badly she hurt Sunset by what she did, or what she would be doing if she fully erased the high school memories of the Humane Six. It’s not until she removes Sunset’s memories that she finally sees what she’s really been doing to her all this time, and the look on her face makes it clear she doesn’t like it. The fact that we get that instead of Wallflower turning into some magic memory-stealing demon is a major step forward. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough to make Wallflower’s change far more genuine.

If that wasn’t enough, this episode gave a lot of what fans had wanted to see. Sunset gets to interact with the Equestrian Twilight Sparkle, who hadn’t been seen since the brief appearance in “Friendship Games”. And it also gave what they had really been longing for, namely the reconciliation between her and Princess Celestia. Similar to a few scenes in “Legend of Everfree”, this special also indicated that Sunset Shimmer has a closer relationship with Sci-Twi than the other girls. Now…some fans have made the jump straight to homosexuality from that, but I think that’s extreme. For one thing, it would be one-sided because Sci-Twi has a boyfriend, and that would only make things more awkward for her to be around Sunset in that case. I tend to think that Sunset sees Sci-Twi as a “little sister”. And there are some genuine dramatic and gripping moments, including the climax in which Sunset cries out in anguish as her memories of the girls are removed one by one and how she looks at Sci-Twi and says: “Don’t forget me!”

Alas, there are some negatives.

This special has been compared to the infamous “Anon-a-Miss” arc from the IDW comic, which enjoyed a resurgence in popularity following the release of the special. One of the big differences between that story and this is that in this one the Humane Six have a plausible reason for instantly giving Sunset the cold shoulder. Nevertheless…most fans were a bit upset that the friendship-orientated personalities of the Humane Six didn’t make more of a connection. There are a fistful of scenes in which Sci-Twi starts to question it, which makes the most sense for her because she only has one “bad” memory of Sunset Shimmer and most of who Sci-Twi is today depended on Sunset Shimmer’s actions, meaning she would be the most likely to conclude something was “missing” in her memories. However, none of the girls ever seem to get the sensation that their group is somehow incomplete or question Sunset’s absence…in spite of the fact a comment by Rarity indicates they should have been experiencing deja vu of some sort or another. I think it would have been a nice touch myself, although going with the theme of the special I’m not sure it would have meshed.

The resolution was a bit hurried as well. While I compliment it for evading some of the expected tropes and cliches, it still adhered to quite a bit of convenience. The Humane Six just happened to be at that location and, what’s more, after giving Sunset the cold shoulder for three days they’re suddenly paying enough attention to her to overhear the key parts of her argument with Wallflower. And by not doing what I said above, it makes the fact that the girls turned around so easily, even considering Sunset’s sacrifice, a little unbelievable. If they had been starting to question if Sunset might be telling the truth, it would make sense. Since they didn’t, it seems like it was just a tad convenient.

Lastly, the moral was a tad smudged again. Everything started because of those superlatives in the yearbook. So was it arguing that superlatives were bad? Or that everyone should get a superlative just so that you acknowledge them, which defeats the purpose of a superlative to begin with? Also, by presenting the idea that Sunset was indeed in the wrong about her treatment of Wallflower, it leads to the idea that some of what happened to her was “merited”.

Nevertheless, none of those are major issues. This special was rightly one of the best in the entire Equestria Girls franchise. If future specials stick with the concept behind this one, not being afraid to consider a theme and treat the audience as being a bit older than the original crowd, and the EG franchise might indeed be able to endure when the main series departs in two seasons.

Fun Facts:

This special was the first entry in the “Equestria Girls” franchise to be rated Y7 instead of Y. While the dominant thought for the rating change is Wallflower Blush shouting: “I hate you!”, I noticed old Equestria Girls specials were retroactively upped to Y7 ratings as well, indicating it’s likely more of a change of ratings policy than new content.

This special was originally conceived as a five-part miniseries to be showed as part of the Equestria Girls Youtube series, which was eventually put online in weekly installments under the title of “Most Likely to Be Forgotten”. The special itself is a condensed version of the miniseries and is six minutes shorter, with several jokes and asides cut out, such as the pony Sunset Shimmer briefly spotting the pony Flash Sentry and a broken library index machine.

Similar to other Equestria Girls specials, this initially debuted in junior novel form under the title: “A Friendship to Remember”.

This special has frequently been compared to the IDW Comic Equestria Girls Holiday Special. Both plotlines featured Sunset Shimmer being unjustly accused of still being a cruel bully, the other girls casting her out, and the one responsible wanting to make Sunset suffer out of jealousy. It also shares a lot in common with the popular Season Five episode “Amending Fences”, which dealt with a character thinking of herself as a great friend discovering she had been neglecting someone for years.

A “wallflower” is a type of introverted person who attends social events but tends to stick to themselves and avoid standing out in any way.

Snips and Snails, in keeping with early episodes of the main series, have become Trixie’s minions again. With their memories erased, shouldn’t they be serving Sunset again?

Twilight’s drone had its AI changed by the Memory Stone to fear Sunset…somehow. O_o

It has been noted that the Memory Stone is very similar in appearance to the Gossip Stones in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. However, as Silver Quill noted in his own review, this is likely not so much inspiration from Zelda as both drawing inspiration from the same source: namely the “third eye” in many Eastern belief systems such as Hindu and Taoism. It’s considered to be a point of higher consciousness, intuition, and spiritual perception. As Silver Quill also mentioned, it is worth noting whenever the girls either lose or gain memories, the point of entry/origin of the memories is the same spot where the “third eye” is said to reside.

In a surprising change to Equestrian history, it is revealed Clover the Clever was in fact a stallion. Apparently back in Season Two’s “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, the girls weren’t necessarily playing roles to gender.

Both songs in the special are incidents of the characters being aware of their own musical number. Wallflower mentions she was trying to get Sunset’s attention through her own song, and Trixie later fast-forwards through Wallflower’s on the drone recording.

When Sunset “ponies-up”, her memories are still missing and so, naturally, she looks confused about the entire experience.

Rating:

4.5 Stars out of 5

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