My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Eighteen: “Buckball Season”

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Synopsis:

Applejack’s cousin Braeburn has formed a team for a relatively unknown sports game called “Buckball” which requires a three-pony team of a unicorn, earth pony, and pegasus to play, but claims its the best; leading Applejack to want to form a Ponyville team to beat them. Believing she and Rainbow Dash are the best choices for the earth pony and pegasus, respectively, they get Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to form two-thirds of an opposing team so they can hold tryouts for a unicorn to round out their team. While eventually they discover Snails has a natural talent for it, the true surprise comes when they realize Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are even better at the game than they are, and they decide they want them to take their places. While the two agree at first, the next day Applejack and Rainbow Dash put them through a grueling practice regimen while continuously shouting the importance of winning this game not only for the honor of the Apple Family but for all of Ponyville, making the two so jittery and nervous they start messing up left and right. By the time the next day has come and Applejack and Rainbow have gotten all of Ponyville whipped up for the two to win the game, the pressure is on so much that the two declare themselves unable to win and kick themselves off the team. Realizing they’ve been pushing the two so hard the game is no longer fun for them, and they were only at their best when they were relaxed and having fun, Applejack and Rainbow Dash apologize and offer to take the places of the girls, but ask that they help them with a practice game first. In a much more relaxed and no pressure setting, Pinkie and Fluttershy regain their talent and again excel at the game. Now more mellowed out, they decide to follow Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and (surprisingly) Snips’ advice and not think about the pressure from Ponyville to win and just focus on having a good time again. With that mindset, Ponyville is able to win a 7-6 victory over Appleloosa. When Braeburn starts focusing on a strategy for the future rematch, Pinkie suggests that he just focuses on having fun.

Review:

This episode seemed to be all about “doing the unexpected”.

Not in the plot itself, of course. This one isn’t one of the major ones from the children’s playbook, but it’s a fairly simple storyline. Friend finds out other friend is good at a competitive sport and suggests they play in a big game; friend ends up pressuring other friend way too hard to win and makes the game not fun anymore; friend apologizes to other friend and other friend is able to have fun and play. They even went ahead and let Ponyville win the game once Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy relaxed, so Applejack and Rainbow Dash didn’t have to own up to their claim that they only wanted the two to have a good time at the end.

But, as in many episodes such as this one, it was all about the presentation, and this one I felt was rather nice on not going for the expected route in anything. One might have expected this to have Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the main roles, as both of them have shown they can be neurotic about competing. Instead, it went to Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, neither of whom are well known for being athletes on the show. To help drive the message home, they could have used the example of “tiger moms”, and to that end they could have had Applejack and Rainbow Dash pressuring the CMCs instead. (It would have made sense with an earth pony, unicorn, and pegasus needed for the game.) Instead, again, they used Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie; their peers rather than the younger generation (the fact that Applejack and Rainbow Dash were already abyssmal to the CMCs had already happened once this season already anyway…). One would have expected Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, or even Starlight Glimmer (renown for being able to do anything magic) to fill in for the unicorn. Instead, they used Snails…a character who has literally never appeared in the series when not being played off of Snips. They even go the extra mile and make him a Zen Master of ball catching (who would have thought a snail Cutie Mark would mean that?).

At its heart it’s a rather simplistic episode. There’s nothing terribly monumental about it, and the moral is one that could have easily fit in with earlier seasons. And yet there’s nothing wrong with being simplistic when it’s done well and everyone is in character. And the fact that none of the details were in the “playbook” and what would have been normally expected was a nice touch, and I actually give it kudos for that. Another solid episode in this season.

Fun Facts:

The “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-chi” sound that is made when Applejack goes in slow motion to kick the apple is based off of a similar effect for TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. That is one hard apple, by the way.

Rainbow Dash can fly with one wing.

I kind of like the irony that Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are both voiced by the same actor, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack are voiced by the same actor. Enables everyone of the same mentality to not be confused. 😛

One of the quirks of this episode that was unusual but a nice surprise was making Snails a stand-alone character. Usually he’s the other half of “Snips and”.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy get so nervous that Pinkie Pie ends up tongue-tied and Fluttershy ends up shouting.

When Applejack and Rainbow Dash are walking down the train corridor, there’s an interesting modeling effect going on in the background to create the passing rows.

When Snips suggests the way to keep from being stressed is to “not think about anything…ever”, Pinkie Pie immediately takes to that. 🙂

I noticed that all of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy’s fans weren’t on the train to Appleloosa with them, but were still at the game. Also, no Little Strongheart in this episode…again. 😦

With only four voice actors in the credits, this is one of the least voice-acted episodes in the entire series.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Seventeen: “Dungeons & Discords”

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Synopsis:

Discord shows up for his regular tea with Fluttershy, but she and the rest of the Mane Six are headed for an overnight goodwill visit to Yakyakistan. Instead, she suggests that he hang out with Spike and Big Macintosh, although she doesn’t mention what it entails. At first, Discord is standoffish when they officially invite him, but when he hears it’s a “guy’s night” he decides to come along. His enthusiasm soon dims when he realizes that “guy’s night” means a night of playing the tabletop RPG “Ogres and Oubliettes”. He’s less than enthused about the game, especially when his actions in the game end in bad outcomes for him, and tries to teleport Spike and Big Macintosh to a jazz club more suited to his style. When they aren’t interested and suggest that Discord just watch them play if he doesn’t want to, he gets angry and brings the game to life: initially enthusing Spike and Big Mac but soon turning sour when the pain and danger to life-and-limb is real in that version. When Spike blows up at him, he also ends up revealing the only reason he brought Discord along was because he felt sorry for him as, without Fluttershy, he literally had no one else in Ponyville to hang out with. This causes Discord to suffer a truly painful blow to his ego; and he brings Spike and Big Mac back, apologizes for his behavior (even managing to say “sorry”), and then shows himself out. However, after he leaves, Spike and Big Mac feel pity for him again, and end up inviting him back and even suggest that his live-action version of the RP would be fun to do again if it was “toned down”. Cut to the next morning, as the girls return and see Spike, Big Mac, and Discord still LARPing and in character. Twilight Sparkle moves to excuse them, but Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash think it looks like fun and join in.

Review:

There’s a leading complaint going around about Discord episodes, and it’s somewhat merited. Discord’s character itself is usually the prime motivation for an episode. The idea of someone who’s “not really reformed” and has absolute power going around and making life Hell for the normal characters. The problem with this is that MLP:FIM is a show not only about learning about friendship but also one where characters overcome their own negative qualities and grow beyond them. Yet to keep the type of character Discord is, his personality needs a “cosmic reset” after every time something happens with him, so that he’s the same guy at the beginning of each new episode.

This episode is no exception, but it’s not quite as bad as it could have been. These aren’t characters in the Mane Six, so it’s understandable that the self-centered Discord wouldn’t really see a connection with them and would still play his own twisted version of a “game”. Yet aside from that, this one goes a step above from most Discord episodes, where Discord ends up counter-trolled or learns a lesson that should be someone obvious to most people. As another reviewer pointed out, Discord obviously thinks very highly of himself, and he even says in this episode that simply having him around makes things more entertaining and fun. Yet at the climax of this episode, Spike confronted him with the truth: he literally had no one else in Equestria to hang out with that night. The two individuals that he pooh-poohed as being losers and nerds had invited him out of pity. Far from being the life the party, the only reason he was at this “party” was out of sympathy. The experience is more than a little humbling for him.

But this was also a good episode for Spike’s character. After all, he was the one who invited Discord in the first place. And after Discord took things too far, he still was understanding enough to bring him back and give him another chance. This is one of Spike’s better moments, even if I’m not sure if it’s technically a Spike-themed episode.

Aside from that, this episode is wild with all of its normal Discord antics, and now it gives nerds like me something to cheer about with its tabletop RPG knockoff. Even more wild was that this was something from the fandom feeding back in on itself, coming from the IDW Comic.

The one bad part, which I mentioned at the beginning, is that Discord pretty much goes back to his old personality after this, as in “To Where and Back Again” the only one he cares got abducted was Fluttershy; not Spike or Twilight Sparkle. Still, this was an entertaining episode and, even if you dislike Discord, you have to appreciate how he got the business handed to him.

Fun Facts:

As if it wasn’t obvious enough already, the title is a takeoff of “Dungeons and Dragons”, probably the most infamous tabletop RPG of all time.

“Puerto Caballo” means “Port Horse”.

So now we know what the monster was in “Party Pooped”: a pony-eating yeti. 😛

It’s true the girls spend a lot of time out of town, but…usually Spike is with Twilight. He must not get many chances to RP. 😦

As a nod that Discord and Princess Celestia might be closer than it appears, Discord has a nickname for Celestia. 😛

This episode is the first instance of something from the IDW comic canon becoming show canon. In Issue #11, Shining Armor’s flashback reveals he and his friends played a tabletop RPG called “Oubliettes and Ogres”, an obvious takeoff of “Dungeons and Dragons”. Since then, the game has made frequent reappearances in the comic universe. Although Spike calls it “Ogres and Oubliettes”, inverting the names, there’s little doubt in the fandom minds that it’s the same thing.

The writers made additional contacts for this episode to make sure that “Ogres and Oubliettes” would be as close to an authentic tabletop RPG as possible…and they did a good job. When Discord won’t decide on a class, Spike rolls for one at random, which you can do in DnD. Also, you can indeed do almost anything in the game, which is the main edge tabletop has over, for example, video games, but you have to usually pass a skill check of some sort and roll, more often than not, a 20-sided die. Pretty sure “Transform into Root Vegetable” isn’t in the Character’s Compendium, though…although maybe I don’t have the latest version. 😛

Spike’s character Garbunkle resembles Gandalf the Grey slightly, but Big Macintosh’s character Sir McBiggun is a Dragonborn from Skyrim.

Discord teleports Spike and Big Mac to the Roaring 20s. Who would have thought he was a fan of zoot suits and jazz?

Big Macintosh gets to live his fantasies again. First in Season Five he got to be an alicorn, now he gets to be a unicorn black knight. 😀

The living versions of the Squizzard and skeleton knights move stilted, as if they’re done with crummy animation of only a slow frame rate.

Discord’s character Captain Wuzz looks like Legolas. On the second viewing, I realized one of his hands has turned into parsnips. 😄

Pinkie Pie appears to turn into a bard class while Rainbow Dash turns into a rogue class. Good choice…rogues are versatile. 😀

I’m a little surprised Twilight Sparkle didn’t want to join in. What kind of nerd is she supposed to be if she doesn’t like RPing? 😛 (In the IDW comic, she plays the game regularly.)

One of the few episodes this season where Tabitha St. Germain doesn’t have a voice, although Rarity is in a number of scenes.

As more support for my theory that even the show writers don’t want to write for Starlight Glimmer if they don’t have to, Starlight neither accompanies the girls to Yakyakistan nor appears at the castle…nor is mentioned the entire episode. Maybe she was in a sound-proof room all night. 😛

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Sixteen: “The Times They Are a Changeling”

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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle, Starlight Glimmer, and Spike are headed to the Crystal Empire to pay a visit to the royal family and Princess Flurry Heart, but find the entire empire in a panic when they get there. It turns out that a Changeling has been spotted in the empire and, after their own disastrous encounter with Changelings, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance have the empire on high alert until he’s found. Spike, soaking in his celebrity status, elects to join the royal guard in searching for him, and while patrolling an ice cave alone suddenly finds himself running right into the Changeling himself. He gets a shock a moment later, however, when the surprise of seeing him nearly makes him fall into a crevasse, only for the Changeling to rescue him. The Changeling reveals his name is Thorax and, unlike the rest of his kind, he was born with a desire to make friends with others. While he was ordered to attack Canterlot with the rest of his kind, he was unable to attack others, and on seeing the Mane Six show off their own friendship for one another was no longer able to live with his kind either. Now he hoped to make a friend in the Crystal Empire, also hoping that the love they shared would be enough to staunch his hunger so he wouldn’t need to feed off of the love of others. Spike returns to the Crystal Empire attempting to say that he made friends with the Changeling, but due to their notions of Changelings, his claim is dismissed as a bad joke. Spike gets a second idea where Thorax changes into the form of a crystal pony named Crystal Hoof and tries to introduce him like that. Although Thorax is skeptical of the idea of staying in a disguised form forever, the citizens of the Crystal Empire, including Princess Cadance, welcome him readily on assuming he’s a “normal” crystal pony. Unfortunately, on introducing him to Princess Flurry Heart, the love of the empire surrounding her is so strong is causes the starving Thorax to uncontrollably revert into his true form, and Spike, nervous about going against the opinion of the citizens who admire him so much, balks and doesn’t immediately leap to his defense, causing him to run off in tears. Realizing what he’s done, Spike runs after Thorax and, after apologizing for his behavior, manages to bring him back to the Crystal Empire; this time in his true form. While everyone else treats him with hostility at first, Spike sticks by him this time; going against the popular opinion and insisting Thorax is different even if it ruins his own reputation. Twilight accepts Spike’s explanation and moves to befriend Thorax as well, causing the other members of the empire to believe him too. Thorax is welcomed as the newest member of the Crystal Empire, he shares his hope that he might be able to one day change the rest of the Changeling hive society by introducing concepts of love and friendship, and Twilight points out to Starlight that friendship lessons can happen anywhere.

Review:

This is yet another episode this season that I am rather stunned got so poorly received. Can a couple minutes of one episode really do all that?

In many ways, this episode has shadows of rehashing Season One’s “Bridle Gossip”, but that’s fine with me. Racism and stereotyping is still a prevalent thing in society and, over the past few years, it’s gotten worse in American culture. It makes sense to do more than one episode highlighting it. This one isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as “Bridle Gossip”, however. It’s worth noting that the Crystal Ponies were still sealed away during the events of Season Two’s “A Canterlot Wedding”. There’s a good chance they only know about the Changelings by reputation. Yet even if they didn’t, the only thing we’ve ever seen of Changelings (“Slice of Life” notwithstanding) is that they are barely sentient, vile monsters. The fact that even a “nice” Changeling still needs to feed on love to survive doesn’t help either. So, really…the stereotyping element is here in this episode, but it’s not as strong as it was in “Bridle Gossip”.

Most Spike episodes highlight a negative quality about him, as I pointed out. However, unlike with Rainbow Dash in the past two episodes, this one is more forgivable and understandable. Spike doesn’t usually just highlight his negative qualities, but gets dominated by them throughout his episodes. In this one, it’s more of slip-up on his part. And I’ll go ahead and say that until you try to make a stand for something that you believe is right when you’re surrounded by people, many of them family and friends, who are going to say the opposite and you know will get angry and perhaps even insulting and condemning of you personally, don’t judge Spike too harshly for balking once at a critical moment.

Aside from that, I actually like Thorax. Many people are ambivalent to him and his new design at the end of Season Six hasn’t been that well-received, but I like more male characters. Yet I also like that he’s one of the first real “sympathetic” characters on the show. Thorax needs to feed to live. It’s nothing personal. It’s not something he’s proud of or wants to do. But he’s forced to live that way. And the show does point out that, so long as he “looks like everypony else”, no one shuns him at all. They actually like his good-natured personality. It’s only when they see his true self that they all immediately hate him innately.

I actually think this was one of the best Spike-themed episodes in the entire series. It had a good plot, good dialogue, moves at a pretty even pace, has some nice visuals and artwork… True, it has slight flaws here and there, but considering the audience of the show and the time frame that’s all forgivable. I have a feeling most people would agree with me for most of the episode.

The part that most people balk at is the resolution. Considering the fact this episode was done by three different writers, it’s kind of understandable that none of them really knew how to bring the Crystal Empire from the point where everyone hated and distrusted Thorax to everyone accepted and loved him, especially when they hadn’t really trusted Spike earlier when he said he made friends with him.

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it…the dilemma of this episode is resolved through “the magic of song”, at which point we have a pretty much universally happy ending in which everyone does a 180 in their opinion of Thorax…including Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, the two who it would be perfectly understandable if they were never willing to trust a Changeling for the rest of their lives. It didn’t help that “A Changeling Can Change” is considered the worst song of Season Six. The first two times I watched this episode I groaned when the song started and rolled my eyes through it.

Yet, to be honest, on watching it for this review? It’s…not that bad.

Oh, it has parts that are pat, to be sure, like Spike’s similes of snowflakes. And nothing really happens animation-wise in the song but Spike standing there soloing. Yet there’s actually a couple good lines in there. One of the lines draws attention to the fact that the ponies of the Crystal Empire say they love and admire Spike, yet when he said something they didn’t agree with they didn’t believe him. Yet Thorax forgave him even when he “backstabbed” him. Essentially he pointed out how Thorax appreciates Spike more than the empire that idolizes him. That’s a fairly good point. I think there could have been more good points made, such as the fact that the Crystal Empire loved “Crystal Hoof” and didn’t think anything bad against him until he was revealed to be Thorax, at which point they were so prejudgmental that they believed Crystal Hoof had been replaced by Thorax. And while it may indeed be a down part of the episode, it’s important to note that the song doesn’t change everyone’s opinion of Thorax. It only impacts Starlight Glimmer (who is still standoffish nevertheless) and Twilight Sparkle. It’s when Twilight accepts Thorax that the others fall in line. It’s still convenient but…not as convenient as it could have been. I noted on this viewing that, in spite of what happened to her, even Cadance was having misgivings about how they were reacting (possibly overreacting) to the presence of a Changeling before Spike’s reveal at the end, which is another point in favor of her character as a whole.

So while the song is definitely the weakest part of the episode, it still teaches a good lesson about cognitive dissonance, which is part of the epidemic of stereotypes and racism to begin with. How the desire to fit in and be accepted personally is enough to make us all start subscribing to things we know aren’t true…possibly even immoral. And that’s a pretty good lesson that builds off of “Bridle Gossip”. Add to the fact there’s some nice scenes and callbacks in here, the fact that I find Thorax to be an enjoyable addition to the cast, and a few good character points all around in spite of their negatives, and I actually think this was one of the season’s better episodes.

Fun Facts:

The title of this episode is a knockoff of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'”.

I have to do my regular “headdesk” moment every time some character says Spike saved the Crystal Empire twice. :/

Spike’s (kinda creepy) Rarity doll makes another appearance.

Back in Season Three’s “The Crystal Empire”, I suggested that the little nursery rhyme Twilight and Cadance do might actually be a way of IDing themselves to each other now. It turns out that suggestion came true at least for this episode.

Kyle Rideout provides the voice of Thorax. While he has a filmography in a number of different things, the biggest reason he was chosen is likely because he provides the voice of Vinnie Terrio from “Littlest Pet Shop”, another show put out by DHX Media that airs on Discovery Family Network, and shares many voice actors with “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.

Contrary to what one might think, the Changeling in Season Five’s “Slice of Life” is not Thorax. Among other slight differences, the eye and wing cover color is different.

Thorax actually does have pupils. They’re colored white instead of black, and they’re faded in with the rest of his eyes, which makes them hard to be noticeable. But there’s a couple scenes in this episode where it adds to his body language if you can pick up on them.

This episode along with the season finale really expanded on Changeling culture and their life cycle. As it turns out, Queen Chrysalis truly does operate in semi-hive culture, with all other Changelings being her offspring and needing to metamorphose into adults from larval forms. Based on the flashback, it was likely she sired him and the bulk of the other Changelings specifically to conquer Canterlot in Season Two. It also established that Changelings can’t “choose” not to feed (at least, not until the revelation in the Season Finale)…that they’re in pain and will possibly die if they don’t.

Spike once again reveals his propensity for making up bad names on the spot as he did in “Gauntlet of Fire”, when he uses the first two nouns he sees to come up with “Crystal Hoof”. Spike is like a bad online pony name generator. 😛

I love how Thorax’s eyes go all wonky when he and Spike nervously laugh.

Early in the episode, Spike accuses a rock of being the Changeling. Ironically enough, later in the episode, Thorax does indeed disguise himself as a rock.

One of the Crystal Pony Guards checks behind a stand up picture frame for Thorax. …Seriously?

Starlight Glimmer has a personal reaction to Spike’s song, for obvious reasons. While I thought her presence in this episode was a sign that she was going to start becoming a more “regular” character as opposed to one that needed to stand out in every appearance, it turns out she was likely in this episode only so she could have a pre-established relationship with Thorax prior to “To Where and Back Again”.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Fifteen: “28 Pranks Later”

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Synopsis:

Rainbow Dash’s pranking of Fluttershy fails to go over well with the pegasus, prompting the prankster to be confronted by the Mane Six. When the girls point out to her that if you don’t make sure a prank is done to someone who can appreciate it and will enjoy it that you’re being “lazy”, Rainbow misinterprets it as a challenge and starts pranking everyone in town…mostly to get a laugh at their expense rather than something they would enjoy. The only individual who seems to think her prank spree is fun is Pinkie Pie, so the girls send her out to Rainbow Dash to get her to stop. In doing so, she learns Rainbow plans to prank the whole town by swapping out Filly Guide cookies that the CMCs will be selling tomorrow for joke cookies that turn the mouths of anyone who eats them rainbow-colored. In spite of Pinkie suggesting that this is a prank only she will find funny or clever, Rainbow insists on going forward with it. After the next day, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and the CMCs have sold cookies to everyone in town, but when Rainbow Dash goes around to see the results of her prank, she finds the town desolate. When she looks closer, she soon makes a horrific discovery: the joke cookie batch has affected everyone who’s eaten them, turning them into cookie-eating zombies. Soon they begin roaming the town demanding more. The only ones who don’t seem to have been impacted are those who were with Rainbow Dash, so she quickly runs back to them and gets them to barricade themselves and the remaining cookies in the barn at Sweet Apple Acres until the cookie effects wear off. Only once inside, the others reveal that they’ve eaten the cookies as well and turn zombie-like too. Soon the zombie mob is closing in on Rainbow Dash and the cookies, but just before grabbing them…the town suddenly reverts to normal, revealing they were playing a prank on Rainbow Dash the whole time. On proclaiming she didn’t enjoy the prank experience, Rainbow realizes how she’s been treating other ponies without regards to their feelings. For the “lesson” she learned, she announces to the town she’ll have to work extra hard to get them all back…before saying: “Gotcha”.

Review:

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the show would parody zombies, even if it was harder to work in. Zombie movies, after all, do tend to be for more mature audiences, and a Y-rated show can’t very well do the living dead, even in the most juvenile capacity. Yet the show still managed to not only pull it off but did so with a few nods to material the older fans would get.

Nevertheless, in terms of plot, this has to be one that you solidly see coming a mile away. While the episode itself was written with a few things that would have made it hard to seem like it could be a prank, such as the Cake twins being in on it and Applejack and Rarity having a casual discussion when Rainbow Dash isn’t present as opposed to talking about how the prank is going, the synopsis for this episode directly said that Ponyville was playing a prank on Rainbow Dash in retribution. I’m guessing they had to put that out in order to do zombies in this episode, as parents at home might have gotten upset unless the show explicitly warned that all of this was just a prank, but it still would have been fairly easy to figure out. Therefore, most of the enjoyment comes from the events throughout the episode and character reactions and interactions.

This episode was another divisive one among fans. I’m not the biggest zombie fan in the world, but the nods here were enough to make me crack a smile more than once. I liked the atmosphere in a lot of this episode, and a lot of the side characters get some screen time with some amusing reactions as well. However, a lot of fans didn’t care too much for zombie material and so that didn’t grab them, and I think what was more polarizing is this was the second week in a row Rainbow Dash has had to learn a lesson after letting one of her negative character traits run away with her. Especially since it was one she supposedly learned way back in Season One.

Personally, I think it was fitting. Rainbow Dash does tend to have an egocentric perspective at times. Even if she’s not egotistical, she tends to think anything she likes everyone will like rather than being more empathic. What more, she was kind of missing the point of pranking in the first place and starting to treat it as another competition, namely to be able to “get” everyone in town, and once it reached that point its understandable how she would get carried away.

I’ll give it one other compliment, too. The “Standard Child Cartoon Playbook” would have normally had Rainbow Dash doing a prank to Pinkie Pie that she didn’t think was funny and that would have been “the straw the broke the camel’s back” and turned her against her to join with the others in counter-pranking her. I always compliment a kid’s show when it doesn’t “go for the obvious”.

So combined with the funny and entertaining moments, I’m in the camp of those who definitely thought this was a good one. I kind of wish it would have played with the idea of “pony zombies” more and not spent so much time setting it up, but still a fun episode.

Fun Facts:

The title is a knockoff of “28 Days Later”, one of the movies that reignited the 2000s zombie craze.

This episode actually has a lot of ties to Season One’s “Griffon the Brush Off”, which was the episode where Rainbow Dash first really connected with Pinkie Pie via their mutual love of pranks. The whole setup for the start, in fact, is Rainbow Dash finally breaking the unwritten prank rule that Pinkie Pie had said in that episode: never prank Fluttershy because she’s not the sort of individual who would be amused by the experience.

This is an episode that tries to cover every character in town, but what’s interesting about that is that Starlight Glimmer is absent. I’ve noticed that she seems to only appear in episodes in Season Six in which she’s either the focus or her appearance is necessary for a plot device. It makes me think, even among the show writers, there are some who dislike her character and purposely omit her from episodes.

“Filly Guide” is an interesting take on “Girl Scout”. It could have just been “Filly Scout”, but they went the extra effort with it.

Rainbow Dash went to the trouble of moving Applejack’s bedside furniture into the pig pen as well.

One of my personal favorite parts of the episode is a confused Princess Celestia looking up from all the scrolls Spike is sending her. 😀

I can’t recall exactly, but this might be the first episode in which one of the characters calls the Cutie Mark Crusaders: “the CMCs”, just as the fans have been doing for years.

The scene where Rainbow Dash walks into Sugarcube Corner and runs into the “zombiefied” Ms. Cake is almost a direct ripoff of Claire Redfield’s arrival at a diner in “Resident Evil 2” for Playstation.

Andrea Libman sounds honestly rather unsettling in a zombiefied voice. O_O

I have no idea how in the world Mrs. Cake got Carrot and Pound to “go along with the prank”. 😛

In the shot with all of the “zombie” ponies, after Rainbow Dash says: “I don’t want the cookies!”, Cranky is making a rather unsettling face. Also, way in the background is “zombie” Octavia.

No ending theme again this time.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Fourteen: “The Cart Before the Ponies”

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Synopsis:

The Annual Applewood Derby is upon Ponyville, a time of year in which the younger ponies all build applewood carts to race. Three separate prizes are up for grabs for whatever cart manages to cross the finish line: Fastest, Most Creative, and Most Traditional. However, the youngsters only get a block of applewood and one day in which to build their carts, so they each get to pick one older pony to help them out, but they have to also complete the race in the same cart as the young pony by riding along. Naturally, the CMCs all want their older sister types to help them out, and Apple Bloom would like to go for Fastest, Scootaloo would like to go for Most Creative, and Sweetie Belle would like to go for Most Traditional. Unfortunately, when the CMCs go to their respective “older ponies”, they all become nostalgic for their own Applewood Derbies and their desire to win the prizes they wanted when they were younger: Rainbow Dash wants the cart to be the Fastest, Rarity wants the cart to be the Most Creative, and Applejack wants the cart to be the Most Traditional. In spite of mild suggestions from the CMCs, the older ponies ignore them and build the cart to their own desires, to which the three reluctantly consent when they assume the older ponies know better. When the time of the race finally gets there, the CMCs are even more shocked to discover the older ponies are so intent on reliving their own experiences that they’re taking over driving the carts themselves, reducing the CMCs to roles of passengers. When the three’s over-elaborate carts end up causing a crash that piles up every cart in the race, the CMCs finally blow up and confront Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash with their selfish behavior. The CMCs realize they should have spoken up more loudly, and the older ponies realized they should have done a better job listening. After apologizing to everyone for ruining the race, Ms. Cheerilee agrees to a “do-over”…provided this time the rule be changed so that only the youngsters get to be in the cart. They end up helping the CMCs build the carts the way they all wanted, and then, far more humbly, elect to be spectators only for the race itself.

Review:

This ended up being one of the most hated episodes of Season Six and of the series as a whole. I’m not quite sure it deserves all of that, but…I can see where some people would get that impression.

Episodes that portray a member of the Mane Six in a negative light never seem to go over completely well. There are episodes that draw attention to a character flaw or a personal problem they need to overcome, and then there are episodes in which a character deliberately acts out that flaw for the bulk of the episode. Some would argue those episodes are borderline Flanderization. I personally don’t think the show has gone that far (although it’s come close more than once…), but the bottom line is when an episode comes along in which a character acts out a negative trait nearly to the exclusion of all positive traits, it doesn’t go over well. Hence why episodes like “The Mysterious Mare Do Well” where Rainbow Dash’s ego swells to the size of a hot air balloon and “Keep Calm and Flutter On” where Fluttershy skips over being rough and straight to being cruel are near the bottom of the list of fan favorites.

This episode did it to three characters at once, so that might seem like a recipe for disaster. But I personally didn’t think of it that much.

While I agree Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash teeter close to the edge of repulsive in this one, and might even cross the line a few times, it’s really not that out of character. Applejack is infamous for being stubborn and thinking her way is the best way, so that’s nothing new. In Season Five, Pinkie Pie directly called her pushy, aggressive, and mean after all. Rainbow Dash does tend to get full of herself at times. Keep in mind she’s still relatively new to the whole “big sister” role. Until Season Three’s “Sleepless in Ponyville”, Scootaloo was nothing more than a fangirl to her, after all. Rarity might be the most out of character as she normally cares about suiting things to the style of others, but even then it’s not as bad as it could be. When it comes to Sweetie Belle, she can be self-centered and assume she’ll just like doing the things she’ll like.

That said, the fact is the CMCs did keep telling and showing the three what they wanted, and they were blatantly ignored. And the song for this episode really drew attention to how out-of-control the behavior had become. So for the lesson at the end, it was really the older girls who should have concentrated more on listening rather than making the event all about them. And the fact is that is indeed a problem in many families where parents try to live out dreams through their children and end up pushing them to do things they really don’t want to do, sometimes with humiliating and embarrassing results. (Even worse is this was only the first of two episodes this season to touch on that theme…)

Still, my counter-argument is that just because three of the main characters are showing off their negative side doesn’t necessarily make the episode itself negative. If they were wildly out of character or a pat ending would have taken place, then I might be more upset. But it made logical sense for Ms. Cheerilee to want a redo of the race, especially since she had picked up on how the older girls had made it all about themselves. And the CMCs have such a good relationship with the older girls that it makes sense that they would make up at the end too.

So, while there’s a touch of OOCness, it’s really not enough for me to rate this episode lower, personally. And parts of the episode are still at least visually or conceptually entertaining. (I kept thinking Super Mario Kart during the episode.) So…yeah, I won’t rate this one bad. Maybe not too good, but not bad.

Fun Facts:

The title comes from the expression “putting the cart/wagon before the horse”, which means trying to do something before someone has done something necessary beforehand. In this case, there is a play on words; namely Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Applejack putting their ideas for their carts before the desires of the ponies they are supposed to be making them for.

One day to turn a block of wood into a cart. Yeah…again my theory earlier I made about how days in Equestria aren’t the same length as days on Earth.

I’m not sure if Michelle Creber was sick during this episode or really bogged down, but Apple Bloom REALLY loses both her accent and childish tone in this episode.

The Cloudsdale Derby is more like extreme bobsledding. It seems like that’s what you have to do if you’re racing on clouds rather than ground.

Rarity never verbally answers Sweetie Belle’s question of who she lost to as a filly, so, although listed as “Muffins” in the credits, Derpy’s name goes unsaid again. 😛 It’s a bit cruel that pegasi make it thunderstorm on the runner up.

There’s an interesting progression through the interactions of the CMCs with their sister figures. Scootaloo seems standoffish about Rainbow Dash but assumes she’ll still help her with her idea. Applejack flatly states she’s going to make Apple Bloom a traditional cart, contrary to her idea. And Rarity pretty much comes right out and makes it apparent she’s doing this entirely for herself and not for Sweetie Belle at all.

That is some magic paint Apple Bloom and Applejack are using. Must be made form the multi-color streaked Zap Apple. 😛

Diamond Tiara’s own cart looks like a real automobile, while Snips’ cart is a giant barber pole, just like the Cutie Mark of the pony helping him.

This episode is the only one other than Season Two’s “The Mysterious Mare Do Well” (also not a very well-received episode) that indicates that Ponyville is actually situated in rather uneven landscape.

Ponies walk faster than Applejack’s cart is moving. 😛

How in the world do Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash end up covered with oil stains building the carts? They’re WOOD. Also, oddly enough, Rarity is the only one who wears her cap backward.

I don’t think Applejack at first and later Sweetie Belle really had to worry about not winning “Most Traditional”. They seemed to be the only ones interested.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Thirteen: “Stranger Than Fan Fiction”

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Synopsis:

Rainbow Dash is overjoyed to be at a Daring Do Convention, not least of all because A.K. Yearling/Daring Do herself will be in attendance. Shortly after arrival, however, she is happy to find another congoer, Quibble Pants, who seems to share her love of the series as well. Yet when stopping for a snack, Quibble Pants reveals he only likes the original trilogy while Rainbow Dash prefers the post-original trilogy books, and the two end up splitting their new friendship over their disagreements on the series. As one of Quibble’s complaints is the physical stunts are impossible, Rainbow seeks out Daring to tell him to his face how all of the events are possible, but on meeting with her she has a more important task for her: keep a watch out for her archnemesis Dr. Cabelleron, who came to the con hoping to steal a key amulet from her that leads to a greater treasure in the Temple of Chicomoztoc. While she’s looking around, Quibble runs into her and gets into another argument, which unfortunately leads both to being captured and held captive by Dr. Cabelleron, who takes them out to the jungle with the intent to trade them both to Daring Do in exchange for the key and the location of the temple. While Quibble is very, very slow to catch on that the adventure isn’t a staged show and continues to criticize it even then, he and Rainbow Dash not only end up going on a Daring Do adventure with Daring Do herself, but shows off his intellectual prowess in thinking his way through difficulties while Rainbow Dash shows off her physical ability in muscling her way through difficulties. In the end, the treasure is recovered and Daring goes off to take it to a museum while Rainbow and Quibble are left to walk home. On the way, while both continue to hold to their arguments over which books were the better ones and their opinions on Daring Do, both also acknowledge that Quibble admires the parts of the series that are more intellectual and thought-challenging while Rainbow admires the parts of the series that are more action-orientated and adventurous…both like the series for different reasons and that’s fine. They also have learned to admire the positive qualities of each other and are able to make friends again over that. As they walk back, Quibble goes into a tirade about what it would be like if he wrote the next Daring Do book for Yearling.

Review:

This season seems to be all about holding a mirror to the face of MLP:FIM demographic so they can see how ugly they are, doesn’t it? 😛 I think the show has set a record for being more meta than meta.

When Daring Do first appeared in Season Two’s “Read It and Weep”, the fact that she was an Indiana Jones parody was minor compared to the real point of her existence. She was meant as a metaphor for the emerging brony fandom itself and the feelings and experiences the “new brony” themselves went through. A couple seasons later, she’s doing it again, and she couldn’t be more timely.

Two things have happened since Season Two. One is that American animation has finally taken a page from Japan and has geared itself toward writing for adults and children alike. While “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” was one of the first and is, to this day, still one of the most controversial, there’s a whole host of them now. “Adventure Time”, “Steven Universe”, “Gravity Falls”… In many ways American animation is undergoing a new Renaissance which is a welcome breath of fresh air. For years the USA has been forced to deal with all “adult cartoons” simply being cartoons that kids can’t watch…or things that feature explicit content and nothing of substance. Now shows are coming along intelligent enough to write for both audiences at the same time. And as a result, many conventions nationwide are filling with cosplays and fans of (gasp) American cartoons.

Unfortunately, the other side effect is that fandoms have gone off the deep end. It seems every day people want to be more polarized on things. It’s not enough to simply like or dislike something or to see something as mostly good, mostly bad, or in the middle. No…everything has to be either praising it as God’s gift or condemning it as raw sewage, with no middle ground at all. And those that hold those opinions have gotten more and more savage. Using the Internet as an outlet, crazy fans use cyberbullying, intimidation, flame wars, and every other despicable thing they can to insult, torment, and assault fans who disagree with them. Some fans have been driven to depression or suicide attempts from this. Others have their fanart and fanfiction summarily destroyed. In some cases, these crazed individuals even force the actual show writers and crew to bow to their demands. In short, many fandoms have a toxic element to them in which criticism turns into nothing but pure, vile hatred for other people. And that’s sad because, ultimately, no matter what you think of something…it’s a show. It’s art, and all art is subjective. It’s not anything life-or-death, and it doesn’t deserve to be used like that. And it’s sad that gaggles of rabid fans can ruin things for everyone.

MLP:FIM hasn’t been excused from this sort of toxicity, especially in the later seasons when new writers have largely taken over, and so it only figures that an episode like this…one that lampoons the fandom that once shocked the world by having a kid’s series designed to sell Hasbro toys end up garnering legions of adult watchers that is now degenerating into a vat of anger, hostility, and criticism…would eventually come out. Whereas last seasons’ “Slice of Life” was a tribute to the brony fandom, this one is an indictment of it.

To me personally, I find Quibble Pants to be only slightly less repulsive than Zephyr Breeze. Early on most of his know-it-all attitude was excusable, but as the episode progressed and he continued to hold onto it in spite of everything happening, plus the fact that he continues to dislike Daring Do personally throughout the entire episode (it’s only his opinion of Rainbow Dash that changes), it grew unbearable for me. I’m sure some of it was intentional…making fun of the fact that some fans are such notorious critics and obsessed with whining that they would complain about the implausibility of a situation even if it was literally happening to them. Yet to me Quibble never hit the point where he came back from crossing over to unlikeability. Anything he does “positive” in this episode is with an attitude of superiority and dismissiveness of those around him. He has a constant look on his face throughout the entire episode that says: “Ugh, I can’t believe how dumb you all are.” It might testify to a fan’s ego (more on that below), but the fact that he never loses that means he stays unlikable. I feel it waters down the moral at the end.

Still, Quibble Pants’ character isn’t that important. The moral of the lesson is.

In general, the members of a fandom who are “better tempered” and “less opinionated” are ones who joined the fandom later rather than earlier. Fans who joined right at the start tend to readily embrace certain traits and characteristics that were of the original creators or were attempts at ideas that tend to fade out as the medium gains its own personality and starts feeding back on its own fandom and universe. These are byproducts of any long-lasting series that runs for multiple seasons, if for no other reason than the original writers eventually leave the series and new writers–ones who have been born and bred on the concept that the medium has grown into rather than what it was originally in the back of the minds of the first writers. The thing is those who were present at the start fixate on those and, if the later writers fail to gravitate to them, they grow displeased with later seasons and what the show evolves into, and often vent their dislike (even hatred) of changes. MLP:FIM is no exception to this rule. By comparison, fans who joined later often do so because they are attracted to the newer material, and then go back and watch earlier episodes or material and appreciate it as background and the aspects that carried over into the later episodes, while still preferring the newer material best. Quibble Pants is a good example of the former fan; one who liked the series from its inception and grew so embittered with how it changed that he refuses to even “acknowledge” (a popular term in fandoms) the newer material. Rainbow Dash is a good example of the latter fan, as Daring Do already had out more than the original three book titles by the time she joined. This goes a long way in explaining the relationship between the two.

The problem with the former type of fan is they often eventually fall victim to “Fan Ego”, the part in which the fandom itself begins to claim it could do better than the original creator and actually knows the material better than them. I’m a fanfiction writer myself but I’ve done my share of original characters. And I have to remind myself in my own fan rants how much I would hate it if someone was to come up to me and start saying they know my own OC better than me. This is more forgivable for a show like MLP:FIM which has a host of writers, each of which see the same characters slightly differently, but in the case where it’s just one writer? While there may be something to be said about a writer eventually changing their opinion and focus on their own material given sufficient time (and it does happen), it’s somewhat insulting to try and claim the creator doesn’t know their own material nonetheless.

And the metaphor for Quibble Pants and Daring Do works pretty well in this setting. Quibble Pants is practically “demanding” an explanation about why the books changed from the type they were in the original trilogy, but, ultimately, A.K. Yearling/Daring Do isn’t doing this to “please him”, but because it’s something she wants to do and loves. And while in this case it’s adventuring rather than writing, the principle is the same. And any fandom that turns on its own creators to make something they love something they hate to have to deal with and wade through is far worse poison to a show or series than anything the writer could do.

Honestly, Rainbow Dash’s criticism of Quibble Pants is pretty valid early on: if he dislikes Daring Do so much, why is he a member of the fandom? (For goodness sake, he clearly thinks she’s an idiot when he finally meets her in the flesh.) And for the answer? To me, modern Internet culture seems to make everyone think their opinion is worth more than it is and glamorizes the idea of putting your opinion in a “special place”, like a blog, to show it to the world as if it somehow gives you higher standing. In this situation, all that matters is that you have a opinion, not what that opinion is. As a result, I believe many fans-turned-critics merely tear things apart because it makes them feel smarter and more insightful than fans that disagree with them, enough to where the joy they get out of the fandom is in saying how every new episode is bad, more or less. This comes out clear in the language more than anything else. Critics rarely say anything from the perspective of their own opinion (“to me”, “I think”, “I feel”) but rather use objective terms (“this IS bad”, “this IS good”).

Yet the point it makes at the end, the point that ALL fandom members need to stop and think about, is that people can like the same thing for different reasons, and at no point is one fan right or wrong for doing so. Rather than trying to convince other people that something is a reason to hate or love something, it’s more important to understand why something someone else loves or hates is lovable or hateworthy to them. Because once you understand that, you can understand someone else, and then you can appreciate them in spite of difference of opinion…which is something the world needs now more than ever.

The real tragedy of this episode is few members of the MLP:FIM fandom seemed to realize the point the episode was making: we are all in constant danger of being a “Quibble Pants”, and it requires some intellectual responsibility on our part to avoid.

I don’t like this episode as much as most other people do. To me, Quibble Pants’ character drags it down just a bit too much, as is the fact that almost everything that happens in the episode serves to reinforce his ideas…which only swells his ego even more. But, if you can take in the context of the point of the episode, this might be the best message we’ve seen in a long time.

Fun Facts:

The title is a reference to the saying: “Truth is stranger than fiction.”, which has a special meaning in this episode for the characters in it. Fan fiction or fanfiction is the term given to unlicensed, unauthorized scripts or plotlines written for a show, book, universe, or genre by fans of the same.

If it wasn’t for Twilight Sparkle’s brief appearance at the start of the episode, this would be a rare episode to feature only a single member of the Mane Six.

I appreciate the detail given to the various Daring Do cosplayers. Just like in real life, while many people may cosplay the same character, each one is going to be a little bit different. 🙂

Quibble Pants is voiced by Patton Oswalt, an actor with an extensive voice acting background in both adult and children’s animation. Possibly his most famous role is Remy in Pixar’s “Ratatouille”. I’m looking forward to seeing him as TV’s Son of TV’s Frank in the revival of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. 😀

Quibble Pants’ Cutie Mark seems to be a word balloon, but I’m pretty sure its supposed to be a “comment” icon, as fandom members are notorious for putting their opinion everywhere they can thinking it’s so valuable. (Looks at own blog) …Ahem…

Did anyone else notice that Quibble Pants was crossplaying the whole time? :3

A “score” is 20. That’s how Rainbow Dash and Quibble Pants get to the right number, in case you’re wondering.

In probably the most adult joke in the series since Slenderman’s cameo back in Season Four, one of the items for sale at the Daring Do Convention is a body-sized pillow with Daring Do fully tied up on it. This isn’t just some joke in the background, either. It’s zoomed in on and, even more creepy, later in the episode one of Dr. Cabelleron’s henchmen buys one. If you’ve ever been to a large enough convention, you’ll see “body pillows” for sale…which are body-sized pillows with a fictional character painted on them, usually a female in some form of nightclothes or lingerie, with the idea that whoever buys it is supposed to make believe they’re sleeping with them. Even more explicit versions of these might indulge fetishes, such as bondage by having the character fully bound. That’s essentially what’s going on here. O_o As a final awkward note, Rainbow Dash thinks this is creepy while Quibble Pants doesn’t seem to mind them…

Being a convention, and as MLP:FIM got some of its start by “crashing” anime conventions (a popular practice for any fandom too sparse to have large scale conventions of its own across the country), the various anime ponies shown in Season Five’s “Scare Master” cameo in this episode. In the scene where Rainbow and Quibble are comparing figurines they bought (another staple of conventions), in the background is the Sailor Moon Pony. The Ranma Pony is in the background when Quibble is tailing Rainbow complaining about Daring Do’s waterfall drop.

The fact that Quibble Pants only “acknowledges” the first three Daring Do books as the true series is likely either a nod to the Star Wars Trilogy, which is probably the biggest target of older fans loving the original three films and hating the prequels, or possibly even My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic itself, with many members of the fandom thinking the show started to “go downhill” as soon as Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn at the end of Season Three.

No wonder the “hot carrot” vendor is so miserable. Look at her Cutie Mark. I’d be miserable if the purpose of my life was to sell hot dogs at cons. :/

The hotel the con is being held at has a three-hoof rating. 😛

One of the many things Quibble Pants does that is a parody of psychotic fandoms is give short, dismissive laughs to people who disagree with him. That happens a lot in comment threads when the conversation goes from facts to simply insulting each other.

This episode does dare to answer the popular fanfiction question of what fictional characters would do if they went to a con for their series. 😛

One of the earth pony cosplayers made cardboard wings for their Daring Do cosplay.

The “cardboard box” Cabelleron cosplayer is a parody of the…uh…commendable effort cosplays that are always at conventions. Hey, at least someone’s getting a picture of him.

The bit where Quibble shouts for Daring and Rainbow to go around the monster and they mishear him saying to go over is a parody of a similar scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, where Indy yells at Elsa to not go between two boats being pushed together, and she mishears it as to go between them.

As another Indiana Jones knockoff, Daring Do says about the seven faceted chest: “I’ve got to get this to a museum”, a twist on Indiana Jones’ line: “It belongs in a museum.”

Quibble Pants keeps rambling over the credits. 😛

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Twelve: “Spice Up Your Life”

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Synopsis:

After being “broken” since the events of “The Cutie Re-Mark”, Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer get the Cutie Map working again, and immediately it directs Rarity and Pinkie Pie to Canterlot. On arrival, both are hungry, so Rarity directs them to Restaurant Row and all of the dining establishments that have earned the coveted “Three Hoof” rating by Zesty Gourmand; the local infamous food critic that everyone seeks the approval of and chooses their places to eat by. Yet on finding all of the establishments have overly fancy and tasteless food, Pinkie literally follows her nose to the Tasty Treat, a back-alley restaurant. Although the food there is terrific, Zesty Gourmand has refused to rate it based on its appearance and, as such, no one ever goes there and it’s going out of business; causing the father-daughter team that runs it (Saffron Masala and Coriander Cumin) to progressively go at each other’s throats with one wanting to fight for the business and the other ready to throw in the towel. On seeing them fighting, Rarity and Pinkie decide the Cutie Map wants them to save their relationship by saving the Tasty Treat, and Rarity gets Zesty to try re-reviewing the restaurant and remodeling it while Pinkie goes to drum up enough guests to pack the place. Unfortunately, both differ on the best way to do it. Rarity believes the restaurant needs to imitate all others in Restaurant Row to get Zesty’s three-hoof approval, while Pinkie believes the restaurant should continue to be unique to stand out from the others. The end is failure on both fronts, with Pinkie failing to get any guests besides two tourists (due to no one local trying anything without the three-hoof rating) and Rarity’s changes in decor and style failing to impress Zesty, who again leaves without giving the restaurant a review and without sampling the food. As everyone mourns their failure, Saffron makes a flat-noodle soup for everyone to cheer them up, causing her and Coriander to remember why they founded the restaurant in the first place: to do something they both loved doing together. This prompts Rarity to get the idea to “switch tasks”, using her own Canterlot reputation to bring guests in while Pinkie reinstates the original decor and atmosphere; and the “grand re-reopening” is a huge success. Zesty herself overhears the crowds and comes in, actually upset that everyone came to the Tasty Treat without her approving it, at which point Rarity and Pinkie confront her for using her own tastes and likes to dictate to everyone else what they are allowed to like or dislike. Other restaurant owners in the Tasty Treat announce their intent to “rebel” and start making their food the way they like doing it rather than conforming to her own standard as well. Although Zesty leaves, still adamantly refusing to even try the food, everyone else has a wonderful night, Saffron and Coriander reconnect, and Rarity and Pinkie are signaled by the Cutie Map for a job well done.

Review:

This episode is kind of an odd mishmash of things and can be appreciated on multiple levels, but, in a rare turn, they work out pretty well.

I myself watch “Bar Rescue” religiously, even if it’s only the Spike knockoff of “Kitchen Nightmares”. I’m somewhat familiar with that type of reality television as a result, and this episode definitely had that flare to me. I imagine not too many other viewers saw that as a stand-out aspect, even with Gordon-Ramsey-Pony walking in (although at least one fan wanted to see him chew out Zesty, I’m sure), but it was still a nice touch.

Another nice touch was how this was the introduction to…well…I’d say “Indian” culture but I’m not sure what the equivalent is in Equestria. Some of Coriander’s comments indicate that it is indeed still Equestria as opposed to, say, Trottingham or somewhere overseas. But the unique style of the characters, the locale they make, and even the little “Bollywood” song number are all cute little artistic touches that make this episode stand out uniquely.

The best part, and this is going to sound like I’m throwing stones from living in a glass house, was the message. The fact is reviews have gone a little wild. I review episodes a bit for my own enjoyment and to let others see my take on episodes, but the Internet, especially in 2016, has taken it to a new extreme. For example, like or hate the remake of “Ghostbusters”, the fact is people were burning it in effigy and declaring they would never see it long before it came out. That’s one example, but a lot of things get declared trash or cursed before there’s even an opportunity for anyone to try it. In some cases, some things are praised when no one has really seen it yet. And critics not only abound, but tend to make their opinions sound more and more objective rather than realizing that they are evaluating art and all art is, by nature, subjective. It was kind of disheartening for me this past year to listen to Doug Walker talk about the subject. I like him as a critic although I’d only say I agree with him 95% of the time. When he talked about when critics disagree with audiences, he came short of admitting that critics can ever be wrong and audiences can ever be right when they’re wrong…instead saying that they see things audiences don’t see. I’ll go ahead and admit I’ve been wrong. “Keep Calm and Flutter On” is a bit worse than how I remember it. “Maud Pie” is a bit better than how I remember it. Yet the extreme in this episode is unfortunately becoming all too real not only in food and entertainment but everywhere, especially politics: that holding certain opinions insulates you not only from differing opinions but somehow gives you more value.

Bottom Line, and one that I hope most bronies have learned personally by now, is that no one can tell you what you can and can’t like. Even if something is “trash” to everyone else, if you like it, that doesn’t make you automatically “wrong”. And that’s a good message for adults, but possibly better for little kids for whom peer pressure means a lot more.

If I had to fault this episode on something, it would be how the Cutie Map task was handled. You would think the goal would be for both characters to learn something, but it’s pretty clear throughout this episode that Pinkie is right all along and Rarity is wrong, right from the moment where she’s nearly like the rest of the Canterlot Elite until Pinkie literally shoves some of the food in her mouth to make her try it. And this is after Rarity experienced firsthand the problem of sacrificing unique identity back in “Canterlot Boutique”.  In retrospect, that’s not so bad of a problem. In “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”, Pinkie had the right idea while Rainbow Dash was going about things wrong. In “Maid in Manehattan”, both characters were sort of clueless but it was Applejack who ended up coming up with the solution. In “The Hooffields and the McColts”, it was Fluttershy who came through for both herself and Twilight Sparkle. So really, in all these episodes it’s usually one of the two that gets it right. Yet not only has it not really been done to the degree this episode did it, but this is now two times Pinkie’s crazy logic has been spot on while her companion kept going up the wrong tree.

Yet that’s kind of a nitpick. It’s still a good episode. It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s intriguing, and it’s got some little odd quirks all of its own. A nice way to reintroduce the Cutie Map.

Fun Facts:

The title “Spice Up Your Life” is based off of a pop song girl group in the 1990s, the Spice Girls.

First use of the Cutie Map in Season Six.

This episode has the “feel” of reality TV shows specializing in “rescuing” failed dining establishments, such as “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Bar Rescue”.

One of the few episodes in Season Six to have Starlight Glimmer in it where she’s not the focus.

As a side note, Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s discussion about how to find the friendship problem is rather clever, as it’s based on how they discovered their own original Cutie Map “missions” in Season Five.

Saffron and Cumin are both spices. The Cutie Marks of Saffron Masala and Coriander Cumin match the appearance of the spices in their names. Both of their ears are more “teardrop-shaped”, with thinner tapering toward the ends, to give them a more unique kind of appearance compared to other ponies.

Saffron Masala is voiced by Diana Kaarina. The one other voice she has done for the show so far was Aria Blaze, one of the Dazzlings in the second Equestria Girls movie. Coriander Cumin, on the other hand, is voiced by series regular Lee Tockar (who is also the only member of the show cast I’ve ever seen in person when he went to Crystal Faire, St. Louis).

In keeping with the Indian theme of Saffron and Coriander, “It’s Gonna Work” is inspired by the Bollywood genre.

Orange Slice, one of the tourist ponies, is voiced by Enid-Raye Adams. The only other time she has done voice work this season was for the fourth Equestria Girls movie, when she played Gloriosa Daisy/Gaia Everfree.

Chargrill Breadwinner is voiced by “Big” Jim Miller, who has written, directed, and worked on the storyboards for numerous episodes…but also occasionally does voice work. Most of his own roles go uncredited, such as when he first did the voice of King Sombra back in Season Three. His first credit was for Troubleshoes Clyde in Season Four. I kind of think he has a bit of a “Trey Parker” quality to his voice.

I’m sure Zesty Gourmand is supposed to be a parody of someone with an appearance like that, but…I have no idea who. :X

Conversely, one of the unicorns who comes to the grand re-reopening is a pony version of Gordon Ramsey from “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen”, reinforcing the “restaurant rescue” plot of this episode. He must like the Tasty Treat because he doesn’t let out a single profanity. 😛 I’m not sure if any of the other ponies are pony versions of people…

In the last shot of the Tasty Treat, the board for a rating has been taken down: signifying no rating is requested or desired.

Rating:

3.5 Hoofs, er Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Eleven: “Flutter Brutter”

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Synopsis:

A visit with Fluttershy’s parents turns sour for Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash when the former’s brother, Zephyr Breeze, an egomaniac, chronic dropout/slacker, and dependent, moves back in with his now-retiring parents after having dropped out of Mane Therapy school. When Zephyr starts ruining his parents’ things to make himself at home, Fluttershy convinces them to evict him so he can learn self-reliance and independence, but that backfires when Zephyr immediately moves in with Fluttershy. Reluctantly, she agrees to let him stay on the condition he get a job, but although she sets him up with three separate jobs with three of her friends, Zephyr’s propensity for quitting anything the slightest bit difficult soon ruins all three opportunities. As a result, Fluttershy evicts him as well, but soon after he moves into the Everfree Forest, and his total inability to care for himself finally becomes so undeniable he reaches a breaking point. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash approach him and make it clear that if he always dismisses everything as too hard to even try, he’ll never do anything his entire life, and make him realize that being a quitter isn’t too different from being a failure. Fluttershy agrees to let him move back in on the condition that he pass the basic styles for Mane Therapy school and, with her and Rainbow Dash preventing him from quitting, he successfully makes the style and does the first independent thing he’s ever accomplished. Not long after, Zephyr manages to graduate Mane Therapy school and thanks Fluttershy for teaching him not to quit…right before asking his parents if he can stay with them for a few days until he finds a new place.

Review:

This episode ended up being (rather surprisingly to me) controversial.

There’s evidence to indicate this episode was supposed to air as early as Season Five (with no indicator being greater than the fact it was penned by Megan McCarthy, an earlier writer in the series who has since promoted to executive producer), but for whatever reason never aired until halfway through Season Six. That whole time the fandom was subject to speculation about Fluttershy having a brother who would be revealed in an episode. Most of us were abuzz with wondering what he would be like. I thought it might be the first autistic character. Others thought he’d end up being a bully who caused Fluttershy to be as timid as she is today. What we ended up getting was…interesting.

This is yet another episode meant to cater specifically to the adult fans…perhaps a bit too specifically to the Brony demographic, as it turned out. Little kids don’t have to deal with issues of “failure to launch” or the difficulties associated with becoming independent…or, more succinctly, what happens when certain family members fail to reach that point of independence. This is something only the older age groups could get. The core lesson is also for them: if you avoid trying to succeed at anything in your life in spite of the difficulty, you’ll never do anything.

I myself lived with my parents longer than I should have. Long story short, there comes a point where depression starts settling in when you realize that you’re still stuck living with your parents long after you should have been out on your own. It’s personally insulting and degrading. The best part about finally landing a full time job and moving out was the feeling of independence. Before then, I didn’t even feel like a man. Even when I had a crappy job there was some sense of satisfaction that I was at least generating income, paltry as it was. That I wasn’t useless and good-for-nothing. I like to think most people stuck living at home, or even without a job, feel that way. That we all want to have the dignity of work and taking care of ourselves and not the humiliation of being dependent on someone else.

Ok, with that out of the way…

Zephyr Breeze is, to me, the most repulsive character ever put on the show. This isn’t just a character stricken with “failure to launch” or who has let a chronic fear of failure drive him to be a quitter his whole life. He’s a caricature and mockery of the “Millennial”, right down to his stubble, college philosophy ranting, and “man bun” (which is pretty much a hair style I hate more than spiders and public speaking combined). He’s lazy, he’s selfish, he’s egotistical, he never stops BSing, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women. To me, he doesn’t have one likable thing or characteristic about him. He’s 100% repulsive and he only grows more repulsive as the episode goes on.

Nevertheless, the episode did give an opportunity to show off just how assertive and mature Fluttershy has become…although if she couldn’t be assertive with Zephyr I’d think something was wrong with her. And while I found him loathsome, I’m sure many thought Zephyr’s over-the-topness and Rainbow Dash’s constant aghast reactions to people suggesting she’s actually attracted to him were entertaining. And it did hold my interest well. Hence, I figured people would simply rip into Zephyr Breeze for this one and leave the rest of the episode be.

Well, that’s when I learned something about the Brony fandom that confirmed a stereotype about us all.

Zephyr was surprisingly liked by the fandom. Some fanartists actually did ship him and Rainbow Dash. Sure, there were those who despised him like me, but not nearly as many as I thought. I thought it would have been a stretch just to tolerate him, let alone admire him. And the reason ended up being fairly obvious. The majority of bronies, sadly, are in Zephyr’s position. They’re stuck living at home with their parents and many of them are, apparently, also so afraid of failure or put off by the challenges of life that they’ve been resigned to their positions as well. As a result, they actually identified with him.

While I can understand a poor economy or job market leaving one in such a position, however, Zephyr didn’t have to suffer from either of those things. And even if he did, there was still the fact that he was passing off moving back in with his parents as if he was doing them a favor and even expecting them to move his stuff back in for him, not realizing that he had a privilege and needed to act like it. Furthermore, Zephyr wasn’t trying to do anything to better his position. He wasn’t actively job-seeking, he wasn’t going to school part time, let alone full time, and he wasn’t holding a sub-par job just so he could pay his parents something in rent. He was just being a deadbeat and expecting his loved ones to accommodate him being a deadbeat. I’m ashamed to admit that there have undoubtedly been some times in my life where I was Zephyr Breeze myself, but that doesn’t mean I was doing the right thing at those times and I’m not embarrassed by them now.

Well…this particular review turned into a bit of a personal rant. In my opinion, Zephyr Breeze is repulsive enough of a character to drag this episode down. But Fluttershy is at the top of her game and Rainbow Dash is good for more than just a couple gags to boot. Plus, this is an episode a lot of the older fans needed to watch. So…alright, I’ll give it a bit higher.

Fun Facts:

At long last, we meet the other members of Fluttershy’s family. She is the last of the Mane Six to have her relatives introduced, although Rainbow Dash’s father has yet to say a line.

Apparently, most pegasi do not live apart like Rainbow Dash. Rather, Cloudsdale is set up as a more modern suburb, whereas Ponyville itself follows more of an Eastern European architecture and places like Manehattan are turn-of-the-century urban.

The point was made back in Season One that Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy have probably been friends the longest out of the Mane Six, but now it’s clear that Dash has been a family friend for years too.

Fluttershy’s mane hue is a combination of the colors of that of her mom and dad.

Zephyr’s nickname for Fluttershy is “Flutter Butter”. She doesn’t seem to care for it. 😛

Fluttershy is normally sympathetic and overly kind to everyone on the show, even characters like Discord. Zephyr and her own family are the only characters she can innately be “assertive” toward.

Rainbow Dash is reading the Daring Do book she featured in.

In Equestria, “peeved” is apparently profanity.

Although this is Zephyr’s first and hopefully only appearance on the show, all of the other girls already know him by reputation.

Fluttershy uses the same relaxation technique Twilight and Cadance used back in “Games Ponies Play”.

There’s not much reinforcement for this, but Rainbow Dash excusing herself to go “help Pinkie Pie sprinkle…something” has been considered possibly an allusion to the morbid-yet-infamous fanfiction “Cupcakes”. Please don’t look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

After the scene cuts from the Palace of Friendship, in the scene with Fluttershy and Zephyr walking down the road, a pony version of Link from “The Legend of Zelda” franchise walks by behind them. It’s not obvious at first, but he has a green hat, his coloration is the same a Epona (even having face paint like her), his Cutie Mark is a half-full Heart Container, and his wagon is full of rupees rather than gems.

Such a pity I didn’t get to see Rainbow Dash actually zap Zephyr with the storm cloud. 😦

In his half-crazed state, Zephyr names his head model “Wigford” and it becomes his only companion. This is similar to Tom Hanks’ character in “Cast Away” when he names a volleyball Wilson as the sole interpersonal contact he has while stranded on a deserted island.

How do ponies use those scissors? They’re built for human hands.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #117: “Who Goes There?”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Newbie Dash”

I finally got around to reviewing this episode, and, as you can see from my recent review of it, I didn’t think too terribly highly of it. Yet the part that I commented on that was painful to watch was when Rainbow Dash, in an attempt to try and make herself stand out more among her fellow Wonderbolts and lose what she thought was a dismissive nickname, started acting like her other friends in the Mane Six. Not only did it not go over that well, but it was obvious to everyone that this wasn’t the real “her”, and in the end she wasted a lot of time trying to be someone different without really changing anything internally or externally…a lot of time that would have been better spent building relationships and connections with the rest of her new teammates. This ended up being especially true at the end when the rest of the Wonderbolts revealed how highly they thought of her and how happy they were to have her on their team, meaning all of the worrying was for nothing.

This ended up resonating with something rather personal to me that I’ve been dwelling on for quite a while. I come from a background of perfectionism. It wasn’t intentional; just something that followed as a natural consequence of how I was brought up. As I’ve said before, I was raised to develop the mind set that I could always do better and be better. Nothing was ever a result of luck, the situation, or my own talents or lack thereof. Everything was always my fault due to lack of foresight or, more often, effort. No matter what I did, the response I always got was: “Well, you could have done better if you really wanted to.” That internalized the idea that anything bad that ever happened to me was not only my fault, but was somehow done on purpose and was therefore blameworthy. Needless to say, this was a rather miserable way to spend much of my life and something I fight with to this day.

The worst part of this mindset is it’s a “warped lens” from which I distort the entire world and every aspect of my life, including Christianity. I deal with a lot of situations in which I try to participate either in Church or religious events or even in evangelism or Bible study, and I not only fall flat in many of those situations but often I sit around angry, sullen, and bitter. Sometimes I start purposely being mean or swearing at the others around me. And why?

Because I feel inferior to all of them. I feel like all of them are “real Christians” while I am a fraud or a phony. I feel like they are all saved while I’m just going through the motions. I can’t listen to any testimony or miracle without thinking I could never do anything like that or have any encounter like that. And truth be told, the few times I did I automatically dismissed those as not being real encounters or doubting the hand of God in them, because I figured that sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.

The truth is I couldn’t (and, honestly, often can’t) see God accepting me for who I am because all I can see is imperfection and flaws, while my own skewed world view only saw God as demanding and condemning. Constantly setting a perfect standard and constantly angry at those who fail to live up to it. Worse yet, I saw every sin and failure I made not only as an incident but something that defined me. If I was a real Christian, then I’d never do that and I’d love doing everything for Jesus and the Kingdom of God. It made a constant chain of feeling inadequate and lowly.

Yet in spite of these feelings, I kept going to Church and trying to get involved in aspects of ministry. I tried to sing in worship and reach out to others in the ways that seemed the most “godly”. Like Rainbow Dash, I felt if I started “acting the part” that somehow things would follow where I would actually become that sort of person and then be a “true” Christian. Of course, it never worked out that way. My bitterness and self-loathing was all still there, and eventually it would always come out.

Recently, I went to an altar call for prayer about this. Once I explained my situation and received prayer, I heard many of the things I have heard before in regards to this issue. This time, however, I tried to not only listen a bit more closely but actually believe what I was hearing, and it was simple yet very hard for people like me to accept. So if you’re like me and dealing with this same issue, I want you, like me, to listen and accept this in spite of all the voices, doubts, and fears screaming at you internally that you’re an exception.

Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross not out of any compulsion or active behavior on our part, but because He wanted to save you. He didn’t want to lump you into a “catch-all” category of mankind, nor does He smack Himself in the forehead thinking why He “wasted His time” on you when you sin. When a father or mother has a child, no matter how the child behaves there is nothing they can do or not do that breaks off the love entirely of the parent for their offspring. So much more God, who is the source of an infinitely perfect love, when he sees us. We’re not merely, as I myself have said before, “scum on the surface of a speck floating in the universe” to him. We are all more than creations. We are children of God. He not only sees value in us before we have a chance to gain it, he sees value in us when we don’t have it at all by anyone else’s standard. There’s no such thing as an individual worth less or worth more to him. We are already precious in his sight by virtue of being brought into being.

As my pastor suggested, every time that something comes up (whether from ourselves or from something more malevolent) accusing us of being inferior or not good enough, take the opportunity to stop and thank Lord Jesus for His individual sacrifice for YOU. Turn what is a time of self-doubt and hatred into a time for praising the Lord and turning sadness into joy. In that way, we “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) for God and train ourselves not only not to hate ourselves, but also to train our minds to see ourselves the way God sees us, and thereby be empowered to live more boldly for him.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your Word. In spite of my doubts, my fears, and what the world around me says, your Word stands true and affirms your love for mankind from age to age, from now until eternity, and shall endure even if Heaven and Earth pass away. (Matthew 24:35) Help me to cling to that when lies, insults, doubts, fears, and even my own self accuse me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Ten: “Applejack’s ‘Day’ Off”

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Synopsis:

Rarity has been looking for an opportunity to spend some time with Applejack at the local spa, but due to increasingly finding herself bogged down with more chores Applejack hasn’t found time. While heading out with Rarity to the farm to pick up more pies, Twilight Sparkle and Spike suggest taking over Applejack’s chores for an hour so that she and Rarity can have some time for relaxation. Unfortunately, on arrival at the spa, there’s a line of ponies waiting for the one treatment Applejack wants: the steam room. Doing some investigation, Applejack ends up discovering the backup ultimately stems from a small problem that everyone at the spa was too busy to fix that eventually led them to waste a lot of time and energy accomplishing nothing. Yet in the time it takes to fix it, the hour is up and she and an unhappy Rarity head back to the farm. Once there, they see that Twilight and Spike are still trying to feed the pigs, seemingly through a rather nonsensical and pointless checklist. On interrogating Applejack about it,  they discover that she herself has been caught in a rut with a lot of chores on her farm; wasting time on pointless steps that serve no purpose than to make the work harder. Rarity and Applejack both acknowledge the need for an “outside observer” to make sure you’re not wasting your time every once in a while and, after streamlining Applejack’s work, head out for their spa treatment at last.

Review:

Last week’s episode was kind of meh to me, but this one, unfortunately, seemed even blander. It has the feel of a Season One episode, many of which suffered from the fact that the writers didn’t fully consider that an idea might not fill out 22 minutes and ended up spending a lot of time on padding. This episode is no exception, only in addition to normal padding of having montage scenes that stretch rather long, there’s also a lot of padding where characters are simply taking long times to explain things to one another.

Yet probably the most disappointing part of this episode is that none of the padding or dialogue is that entertaining. It’s just Applejack and Rarity mostly talking about time management, spa treatments, and fixing steam rooms. And in spite of all the padding, there are not one but two joke scenes with Rainbow Dash thrown in just to be humiliated for getting spa treatments as well…neither of which are that amusing and go on too long.

The irony is that this episode itself ends up seeming like it represents the show writers being stuck in a rut. I actually wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if that was how it came to be. There were a number of other episodes this season that seemed to be born from ideas scraped from the bottom of the barrel (“P.P.O.V. Pony Point of View” comes to mind), but most of them managed to inject at least something entertaining in them. This one is just…there. I can’t honestly say it’s a “bad” episode, but with pretty much nothing to write home about…I’m going to go ahead and rate it lower.

Fun Facts:

Is the spa the only thing mares do for fun together? Anyway, we already know Rarity and Fluttershy head to the spa together. Apparently, so does she and Applejack.

Rarity’s horn got “pruny” as well as her skin. :O

An unexpected cameo of the only character possibly more disliked than Svengallop, Spoiled Rich. She actually appeared once already this season, but only in the “story universe” in “A Hearth’s Warming Tail”.

Mr. Cake is getting the deep-tissue massage by Bulk Biceps.

It’s been pointed out in previous seasons how awkward it is for ponies to hold things that normally can only be used by hands in their hooves, but somehow Applejack manages with all of her tools. 😛

Aloe’s accent pronounces Applejack “Appleyak”. :X

When Twilight Sparkle slips on the rope and nearly hits the ground, it resembles the infamous scene with Ethan Hunt in the first “Mission: Impossible” movie. To accent it, the background score plays the first few notes of the infamous theme.

Anyone else ever think it’s odd that herbivorous ponies harvest eggs? And raise pigs, for that matter?

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5