My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Eleven: “Not Asking for Trouble”

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Synopsis:

After repeated suggestions in her scrolls, Pinkie Pie has gotten an invitation from Prince Rutherford to go to Yakyakistan for Yikslerbertfest. On arrival, she gets so much into the festivities that Rutherford says he almost wishes to make her an honorary yak. However, during one of their “stomping” ceremonies, the yaks cause an avalanche that completely buries the town in snow. When the yaks are unable to dig out on their own, Pinkie suggests that they ask the ponies of Equestria to lend them a hand, but Rutherford adamantly refuses and instead announces they will wait for the snow to melt, even though they have no food or shelter. Pinkie goes along with this while subtly suggesting the yaks ask for help, but Rutherford not only continues to refuse but when Pinkie doesn’t stop announces that she knows nothing about yak culture recants his statements about her being an honorary yak. Upset at how stubborn they’re being, Pinkie returns to Ponyville and rallies her friends, saying that they need to help the yaks but can’t let them know they’re doing it. The Mane Six return to Yakyakistan during the night on a “covert friendship mission” and secretly dig out the town and set everything back up again. When the yaks awake the next morning, they cheer on Rutherford for deciding to wait for the snow to melt on seeing their restored town, but Rutherford catches a glimpse of Pinkie Pie sneaking away and heads off the Mane Six. At that point, he declares Pinkie an honorary yak once again; saying she understood yak culture by helping without waiting to be asked. Pinkie gets her own honorary set of yak horns for horn bumps, but find out the hard way Rutherford was right about them being too heavy.

Review:

The general response to this episode that I have observed interests me. Most fans I’ve run into rate it as average or slightly above average for the lesson. I find that funny. Fans have lampooned episodes before for failing at the very moral they were trying to teach (such as “The Cutie Re-Mark”) even if the approach was decent, but this one seemed to get a pass from a lot of folks. As for me?

To me, this derailed the momentum the season was going through with a nice, big, fat muddled moral. And who better to deliver that sort of plot than Prince Rutherford.

The yaks were no one’s favorite characters following “Party Pooped”. On a personal note, I feel they are the biggest fail characters the writers have ever come up with. It’s clear to me they were designed to teach the audience about being sensitive to other cultures and recognizing that what is normal in our culture isn’t for everyone, and that what may come off as rude or mean is the natural response to a cultural insult for us. However, the yaks came off in “Party Pooped” as aggressive brutes rather than simply an “alternative” culture. It made many people think why the ponies would want to bother being friends with them in the first place.

Most fans seemed to think this episode did better. On the first viewing, so did I. The yaks are toned down quite a bit. They seem to be a culture with a lot of personal pride; not outright aggressive or mean. That’s a plus from the first appearance. And while it took me a while for it to sink in, I “get” the lesson this one was trying to teach. The idea was supposed to be that the yaks weren’t opposed to the idea of help; just asking for it. In yak culture, if you want to help someone you just do it without forcing them to make a show of it. And that’s perfectly understandable. I read once that some of the Native Americans were the same way. If they wanted to give someone a gift, they didn’t make a big official presentation of it; they just left it out for them to find. If they didn’t take it, they assumed they didn’t want it and so they took it back…which, ironically, led to the derogatory idiom “Indian giver”. But I can see the idea. If you do something for someone, you don’t want to draw attention to it to make yourself look good for being nice or giving a gift. If that was the case, that would have been fine and I might have rated this episode as average too.

Unfortunately, that was not what happened in this episode, in spite of Prince Rutherford outright saying that’s what happened.

  • Pinkie Pie didn’t start with telling the yaks to ask for help. She said she’d go to Ponyville herself and ask her friends to help without the yaks prompting. The yaks would have never had to ask for anything. Granted, she would have been asking for help, but that’s what she did at the end and Rutherford didn’t seem to mind that.
  • It’s rather clear throughout this entire episode that the yaks aren’t necessarily on board with what Prince Rutherford claims is “yak culture”. Initially, all the yaks except Rutherford like Pinkie Pie’s story. It’s only when they fear getting his disapproval that they disagree with it as well. They’re clearly uncomfortable with his decisions throughout the episode and only reluctantly give him “horn bumps” toward the end.
  • Prince Rutherford makes it clear through his words and actions that it’s not just the idea of asking for help that he’s avoiding, but even admitting the yaks need anyone to begin with. And he’s very happy at the end that all of the yaks (incorrectly) believe he was right all along about not needing assistance.
  • When Rutherford learns that Pinkie left, even though he’s the one who shut her out, he refuses to admit to anyone or to himself that she’s gone because he wanted it, and never admits he was wrong for driving her off.

To me, what all of this means is that it wasn’t about yak culture but being under a particularly stubborn and foolish ruler who was driving his own subjects off a cliff and was too arrogant to admit it. Pinkie keeps saying “those yaks” but it’s only Rutherford who keeps shutting her down due to his pride and trying to keep himself looking in control. On the second viewing, this episode would have worked better as a single individual learning to admit when he made a bad decision, but that was covered as early as Season One’s “Applebuck Season”.

It does have its humorous moments. It wasn’t the best Pinkie Pie episode by any stretch or even of this season (“Secrets and Pies” would handle that), and a fistful of the things the yaks say and do with their third person way of talking is humorous. And I do appreciate that so many people were able to overlook just how muddled the moral was to get the key idea behind it, but I doubt most kids will be quite that sharp. Yet most of it is still a lot of what was in “Party Pooped”: Pinkie Pie being forced to deal with yaks acting like big, dumb brutes. And unlike that one, I don’t think there’s enough “Pinkie Zaniness” to offset it this time.

Fun Facts:

Prince Rutherford’s prank on Pinkie Pie is a throwback to the plot (and audience perception) of his original appearance in “Party Pooped”, in which it seemed everything the ponies did ended up insulting the yaks. Nevertheless, if you have a careful eye you can tell he’s joking. When his mane momentarily moves away from his eyes in the scene, you can see he’s not angry.

When Pinkie Pie takes a bite of the yak cake, she says: “The perfect balance of vanilla extract!” In “Party Pooped”, the yaks threw a fit because the cake the ponies made for them didn’t have the perfect balance of vanilla extract. The yaks also seem surprised Pinkie was able to pull off eating the cake in one bite like they do. They clearly don’t know Pinkie.

The return of Pinkie’s “drill mane”, first seen in “Bats!”. Gummy helps by very slowly eating snow.

There’s a touch of meta-humor in this one. It’s been a long-standing gripe about justification for the actions of the villains or “mean” characters on MLP:FIM to have simplistic backstories with some emotionally scarring tragedy. Prince Rutherford tries to make one up, but Pinkie points out all the flaws in it.

When recapping the story to the rest of the Mane Six, Pinkie calls herself “Pink Pony”.

It actually makes sense that six of the girls are able to clear away the avalanche all by themselves overnight. They’re ponies. They “wrap up winter” all the time. 🙂

Nerd nitpickers of the show (like me) were quick to note that Twilight Sparkle was able to make crops spontaneously grow. The whole dynamic for earth pony/pegasus/unicorn is supposed to be that only earth ponies can grow food. However, I will note that Twilight is an alicorn and has attributes of all three races.

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5

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My Little Devotional #155: “Making Molehills Out of Mountains”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “A Health of Information”

Once again, I’ll be going in a slightly different direction with this one.

This episode introduced me and the brony community who hadn’t been keeping up with the comic officially to Mage Meadowbrook. The thing that I fixated on very quickly in this episode was the style that inspired her look. Between her hair, dress, accessories, Southern accent, and the appearance of her descendant, it soon became very clear to me that she was inspired by Louisianans…particularly Louisiana voodoo.

As silly as this will probably sound to most of you, especially since I tend to fixate on things and blow them out of proportion, this actually made me feel uncomfortable for a few days. Most religions in the world I dismiss as philosophy, mythology, or harmless, but there are a fistful out there that I feel drive people to do very evil things and are genuinely bad. I didn’t like the idea of this character, even if only in style, “endorsing” that religion. Again, I’ll say I tend to blow things out of proportion and read too much into them. After all, it was very clear from that episode that Meadowbrook didn’t practice voodoo, any more than Somnambula worshiped Ra or Rockhoof went raiding and pillaging. She was an apothecary and didn’t even have any magic of her own in spite of the title “mage”. Nevertheless, I did focus on it, even obsess over it, for a few days and debated writing to DHX Media or even quitting the show all together for a time. Eventually, I reasoned it was nothing but appearance and a misguided selection to add more variety to the Pillars of Equestria.

Yet remembering my reaction to that makes me think of a greater topic. As Christians, just how much of society should we “ignore”?

Our kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), but nevertheless most of us also identify ourselves as citizens of one “earthly” nation or another. And whether or not we can say that nation was built on Christian values, if we get any sort of say at all in the government we usually act in accordance with our faith. And in that sense, all Christians attempt to influence society to be in line with our values–the same as most everyone else. We all know the big name items that Christians talk about and debate: homosexual marriage, abortion, care of political refugees, the death penalty, etc. Each of those is an attempt to make the country operate in line with what we believe or, at minimum, to prevent a mandate that would force us to violate our own beliefs. Often, we also not only endorse our standpoint but many of us consider it a moral imperative to speak out about such big topics. Silence on them is considered tantamount to acquiescence and even, in some cases, an act of evil itself.

And true enough, in a situation in which we find an innocent person dying, all Christians believe we have a moral responsibility to do something and that to not do something is a grievous sin of omission. (“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” [Proverbs 24:11-12]; “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.” [Proverbs 14:21]); “This is what the Lord says to you, house of David: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.'” [Jeremiah 21:12])

However, aside from the major issues, there are also many smaller ones. Prayer and display of religious objects in schools, what is taught in textbooks and history books both in biology as well as natural history, what constitutes “art” versus indecency or anti-Christian sentiment, characters or subject matter in popular media for children, or simply the sheer amount of genuine filth present in the media nowadays are just a few. (As I’ve said before, I believe part of the reason adults are watching more children’s cartoons nowadays is they’re sick of feeling “dirty” after watching adult programming.) These things tend to get Christians outraged as well. And many times, they’ll devote considerable time and effort to protesting them. They might even consider banning certain books or eliminating certain TV shows to be as much a moral imperative as the matters of life and death, and, just as in those cases, a sin to be silent to it. To not protest, the argument is, is to not only allow it to be permissible through a sin of omission, but to also give way to a generally more “morally lax” position of Christians in general by gradually protesting things less. Simply “shrugging” and letting everything continue on a progressively slippery slope. To be honest, the argument can be made that (at least in America) Christians have become so watered down they’re effectively not even Christians anymore except on Christmas and Easter, and then only for an hour or two. The rest of the time many of us embrace everything else in culture, both wholesome as well as despicable, without much thought about any messages that sends or impact it has on us personally and/or spiritually.

Should Christians be more concerned about trying to reshape society toward more Christian values than it currently reflects today? Should they be fighting all of these “little battles” so vigorously as a form of line-drawing? Do they matter just as much as the big issues?

Rest assured, I do entirely believe there are a lot of things out there that are pure filth and serve no one any useful purpose. And it’s been demonstrated both unofficially and psychologically that, depending on your mental state, being constantly subjected to certain things eventually erodes away at one inwardly to the point where lasting damage is done to the human psyche. (Look no further than those suffering from PTSD or those addicted to pornography.) Furthermore, I believe we have freedom of religion in this country…not freedom from religion like more and more people are trying to insist. And there are a number of these “smaller causes” that I think are worth fighting for when they represent a greater issue at heart, such as how we are allowed to practice our faith or what we are allowed to speak about and display in public.

Yet in many cases I’m wondering, at least in America, if the energy is misdirected or even substituted.

I’ve gotten old enough to realize something: whether you’re a Christian or a member of any other religion, the easiest way to endorse a cause with the lowest amount of effort is to simply “get angry”. It takes almost no energy at all to say something is bad and condemn it. It takes very little more to write a nasty post or comment about it. It’s far harder to propose a solution just as attractive or work about to bring a constructive change or improvement that leaves an impact.

I think most Christians in America do realize they aren’t being terribly active for Christ. Very few of us tithe. Even less of us witness. And we’re usually too busy with our own lives to have any time for doing anything in terms of lay work, ministry, or volunteering. We realize not much of our lives is too terribly different from that of a secular person, and as a result we tend to focus on doing “one big act” every now and then to make up for that rather than trying to maintain a Christian lifestyle.

So…what is the quickest and easiest way to do “one big act” to make yourself stand out as a Christian and earn a “brownie point” for living a Christian life? Denounce something Christians in particular dislike, which is extremely easy thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

I recall the parable of Lord Jesus in Mathew 7:3-5. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of  your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I believe He made another point in that story besides just a warning against hypocrisy; namely at how much easier it is to fixate on the problems others have while ignoring our own much greater ones. From personal experience, I can attest that when I am doing something wrong it’s far easier to find someone doing either a different sin or a “lesser version” of it…or maybe even just something my mind twists to look wrong…and condemn them far more vigorously, as it helps me feel more self-righteous and ignore my own issues. Of course, in the end, all I’m really doing is committing two sins instead of one: my original one plus my self-deception.

My encouragement for this devotional is to go ahead and remain active (that’s important both as a good citizen as well as a good Christian), but just make sure that no matter what you are defending or condemning your motives remain pure as a result of being honest with yourself. That way, we’ll focus more on fighting the “right battles” rather than thinking we’re somehow effecting great moral change by doing something as minor as, say, penning a letter about the way a character in a cartoon is dressed. Also, we’ll focus more on the one person we can always change (ourselves) and less on those we can’t.

There will always be good causes to fight because this world is indeed not our own; but let us not forget that it was never going to be. Our true test is to endure living here and persevere in faith rather than think we ourselves are somehow righteous and powerful enough to change it to be the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, it’s the Message we preach and the lifestyle we live that will be far more important than the other messages and lifestyles we rally against.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I know that there are many things in this world opposed to you. Some of them I should endure in a Christ-like manner, and others I should take a stand against. Please grant that I will be motivated and stirred enough out of my comfort zone to confront the things I need to stand against, and the humility and honesty to stand down from the things I’m using as an excuse or compensation for my own poor behavior. And I thank you for bearing with me and being patient with me–both in times in which I failed to stand for what I should have and failed to sit for what I should have. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Devotional #154: “An Accidental Loss”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “It Isn’t the Mane Thing About You”

In this episode, Rarity is rather excited about an upcoming photo shoot that will feature her and her highly-prized mane when an accident causes the bulk of her hair to fall out. Robbed of her pride and joy, forced to cancel her photo shoot, and soon noticing she doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as she did with it, she sinks into a cycle of depression and self-pity, endlessly obsessing about what she lost. While her friends let this go on for a few days, when she shows no signs of quitting they stage an intervention with a bit of “tough love”; reminding her that there’s a lot more to her than her mane that they all love about her. Finally shaken out of her glum mood, Rarity is able to make what’s left of her hair into a new style that’s just as eye-catching as she remembers her flair for inspiration and creativity. While she still would prefer her mane back, she realizes that all of her time wasted on lamenting it wasn’t doing it or her any favors, especially when it made her start forgetting about herself and her worth as an individual.

I consider myself very blessed by God that I have made it this far in my life without having to have something permanently taken away from me via injury, illness, or major catastrophe. I know there are many out there who are not nearly so fortunate, and I won’t presume to be so bold as to say I know how they feel. Yet even if you’re like me and are at the time in your life where you’re still having more opportunities open to you, there will come a time for all of us where doors will start shutting. I’m not going to be able to get much older before there will be limits on how strong and agile I can make my body. Not long after that and I won’t be able to eat what I used to and I’ll need to make a point to pay more attention to my heart and lungs. Assuming I’m lucky enough to not need glasses by then, in a few more years I’ll have to cut back on my exercise and say goodbye to any long competition runs. Eventually, all of us will reach the point where even getting around the house will become difficult, where we have to relinquish our ability to drive or get ourselves in and out of the shower, and may not be able to enjoy much from a physical standpoint at all.

In that sense, all of us will eventually reach the time of our life in which we lose something we thought was going to be a part of us forever–something we may have even enjoyed, relished, and prided ourselves in, and be left wondering what comes after that. If we’re lucky that will come early in life. If not, we’ll experience loss much sooner and far more abruptly and suddenly. All it takes is one incident to rob us of our sight, our hearing, our mobility, or our appearance.

When faced with this kind of loss, the grieving process is as natural as it is for when we have a death of a loved one. In a similar vein, both involve realizing you have lost something you aren’t going to get back and are now faced with an emptiness or, in this case, a closed door where once there was an open one. Anger, bargaining, denial, and depression are all natural reactions. Christians experience this as naturally as everyone else too. In fact, they might feel the reactions a bit more strongly: blaming God for what happened to them, thinking praying enough or doing good deeds will somehow undo it, and lastly feeling abandoned and unable to fulfill any meaningful purpose. How would, for example, a person once admired for their beauty, especially one in a romantic relationship, feel if they were a burn victim? Or how would someone who used to be an active athlete feel if they got damage to their spinal cord?

I don’t have any answer to how to make someone feel better after something like that, and if I did I wouldn’t presume to think I could. Even if I had been though a major loss such as that, it would be ignorant to believe I could understand how someone else was feeling who was experiencing such tragedy and that I could wash it away with some magic Bible verse. Grief is a natural process, as I said, and it has to be endured and gone though in its own time. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

The only thing I do know is from this episode: you can’t let a loss dictate who you are. You can’t reach a point where you think you’re nothing now; where you start defining yourself by what you lack rather than what you still have. You may reach a point where you have a disability, but you are not “a” disability.

Remember what the Bible says. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16) “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12: 6-7) ““Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

God sees glory and beauty in you even when you can’t see it inside yourself. There is no one who is “worthless” or “too broken” in his eyes, whether in the spiritual sense or in the physical sense. At your lowest point in your life where you thought you were of the smallest, most insignificant value, God appraised you as worthy enough for his Son to die in your place. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) In the midst of whatever you’re going through, please don’t forget that.

And if you are lucky enough to have all of your own faculties but know someone who has experienced such a loss, first bless God for what you have, but then take a page from Twilight and her friends in this episode. Let that someone know that you still see them just the way they are now as you did before their loss; that you value them as much at this point as at that one. Don’t try to offer any platitudes or maxims or empty advice…just let them know that you are there whenever they need to reach out, and that you’ll be with them to “grieve with them” as long as they need. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35); “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

As a final bit of motivation toward encouraging the downhearted, I’d like to link one of my favorite songs: Here on Youtube.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your words of encouragement found in your Word, the Bible, that constantly assure me of my worth even when I feel worthless. If I have been stricken with loss, help me to cling to that and remember that even with what I lack I am more precious to you than I can possibly imagine. And if I am fortunate enough to not be lacking, then help me to always be there for others who need me in the way they need me–even if it’s only to sit with them as they cry. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Ten: “A Royal Problem”

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Synopsis:

Starlight Glimmer gets a surprise when the Cutie Map not only summons her for a change, sending her right to the Royal Palace of Canterlot itself, but her alone. On arriving at Canterlot, she immediately picks up on trouble between the two sisters; noticing that both of them are inadvertently hurting the feelings of the other by not acknowledging the hard work they do. She confronts them both one morning to have them explain how they feel about that, but this only prompts the sisters to get into a heated argument in which they both believe their own job is extremely difficult while the other one has it “so easy”. Eventually, going with a gut decision, Starlight casts a spell to switch their Cutie Marks so that both will be forced to spend a day in the other one’s shoes to see what it’s like. Both sisters, believing themselves to be the one in the right, end up agreeing with it. Princess Luna expects an easy day where all she has to do is smile and be admired; yet learns the hard way about how emotionally exhausting it is to go the entire day being empathetic, understanding, and warm toward everypony without a moment to rest and ends up accidentally ruining a field trip fund raiser and scaring locals fearing Timberwolf attacks. She goes to bed physically exhausted and tormented by nightmares about her mistakes. Princess Celestia expects an easy night of simply watching Equestria and making ponies have “lovely dreams”, but gets struck by the isolation and loneliness of the position. When she ventures into the Dream Realm to try and help ponies with their nightmares, she ends up needing to help Starlight herself who is desperately fearful that failing to aid the two sisters will lead to the return of Nightmare Moon. Celestia moves to confront her…only to be shocked when she finds Starlight is also dreaming about an “evil version” of her named Daybreaker, the mere sight of whom leaves Celestia emotionally paralyzed. Feeling alone and anxious, Celestia draws the sleeping Luna into the same dream for assistance, but when she reveals she can’t as Celestia alone has her special dream magic, the older sister flies into fear and despair at how she’s not as brave or strong as Luna. In response, Luna reassures her that after seeing what she had to go through all day she knows she’s strong enough to defeat Daybreaker, and, emboldened by her sister’s confidence, Celestia is able to destroy her and Nightmare Moon and end the nightmare. The two sisters awaken the next day with new appreciation for the all the work the other does and are now closer than ever. Starlight Glimmer’s flank glows, showing her job is done, only for Twilight Sparkle to teleport in and demand the entire story out of her. Luna quickly mutters that Celestia needs to fix the messes she made with the field trip and the Timberwolves before heading to bed for the morning.

Review:

Pull up a chair for this one because I’m going to go on for a while.

While, for me and many others, “The Perfect Pear” ultimately ended up being the best episode of Season Seven, this one has my pick for my favorite episode of this season. This is the sort of episode I’ve been wanting to see for years. One that finally gets into Princess Celestia’s character. Ultimately, I think that was one of the hallmarks of this season and one of the edges that the newer writers have over the older ones. The first generation writers treated the princesses of Equestria as plot devices and Worf Effects. The second generation writers treat them as normal individuals. Before we get into them, though, let’s start with the episode as a whole.

As a Cutie Map episode, it’s one of the best. I will admit that I did groan a bit that Starlight Glimmer got the first “solo” Cutie Map assignment. However, I understand why she did it. She really was the only character fitting for this episode, as her lack of tact and her notions that she believes she knows best were what was needed. Only she would have been bold enough to not treat the two royal sisters as, well, “royalty” and to actually switch their Cutie Marks in the first place. And while she does have several moments where her less sociable and less tactful nature comes out (“I can’t! Even if I wanted to!” “Good choice! Heh, not that you had one.”), she does quickly realize those are the wrong things to say. And in spite of those moments, you do get the sense that, at her heart, Starlight really has “mastered friendship” enough to where she really does want to help the two sisters rather than just treat the whole thing as some achievement or notch on her belt. She does have empathy in this one, just…she hasn’t learned how to express it or suppress her old habits yet.

And it’s not like she gets through the episode “pain free” either. Thanks again to Kelly Sheridan’s voice acting, the part where she breaks down in tears in her nightmare is very genuine and makes even stubborn-Starlight-fans like myself feel some sympathy for her.

However, similar to “Top Bolt”, this is one episode where the characters being helped outshine the pony responsible for fixing the friendship problem: namely Princess Luna and Princess Celestia. As I said before, we learn a lot about Princess Celestia’s character in this one, but I’ll start with Princess Luna.

From episodes like “Luna Eclipsed” and “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?”, we’ve learned about Luna’s character, but she’s still apparently vague enough to be somewhat of an enigma in the series. Most fan views of her contrast sharply with views from the IDW comic, for example. It’s possible to get the viewpoint that, of the two princesses, Luna is the one who is more aloof, separate, thinks of herself as “above” the common ponies, and acts the most mysterious and godlike.  One can get the sense that she’s really all about herself as a princess, and that’s easy to see as she was once Nightmare Moon; a villain who selfishly only cared about being treated as a queen and who was heartless and cruel in all other regards.

This episode shows that Luna does care; it’s just she doesn’t show it in the same way. Luna isn’t sociable or able to deal with large groups in grand displays or public occasions, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about her subjects. She’s just not that sort of individual. There are people like that in the world who do have friends and loved ones, but prefer to be in small groups or one-on-one rather than big events surrounded by strangers. She doesn’t like talking about her feelings but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel for others. Rather, Luna shows she cares through overt actions. When she sees a pony with a problem, her answer is to jump in and take care of it herself (which will contrast to Celestia in a moment…). When she deals with individuals, she wants to do it head on rather than just talk to them about their feelings. She also does want to be seen as a symbol of power and control, but that’s because how she feels she does best. She doesn’t see her royalty as something so much to be lorded over other ponies as a symbol of status and power that they can feel safe under. Lastly, Luna is both strong and intelligent enough to deal with problems as they need to be dealt with…but only at her own pace. Only after she has had time to think about them. Note that in her earlier episodes with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, she never “jumps in at the first nightmare”. It’s only after a little while has passed that Luna interjects and then presents them with the proper solution. It’s quite possible Luna was observing them for a while before she got the “heart” of the problem. (Especially in “Sleepless in Ponyville”, as Luna was present in Scootaloo’s first nightmare but didn’t actually intervene until the second night.)

And it’s for these reasons that Luna was always ideally suited to “rule the night”. As the only one awake at night, she holds the position of guardian of Equestria, and that’s fine with her because she’s not afraid to use her own power offensively. She’s alone except when she enters dreams, and that’s also fine with her because now she has quiet and peace while she things about how to fix problems ponies have. And yes, she would also work all night hard because she’s literally fighting nightmares from dusk until dawn. While she would definitely prefer to get a bit more acknowledgement for all that she does, ultimately the “job” that Celestia holds is not for her and never was for her, which is something she failed to realize as Nightmare Moon. While she may have been displeased with her task due to lack of praise, ultimately the role she plays is what’s best for her…what “her Cutie Mark is telling her”.

Now, for Princess Celestia…

The years have not been kind to Celestia. She still gets regular calls of being a character who can only tell others to do things and is unwilling and/or powerless to do anything herself or “Trollestia”–a character who purposely makes the lives of her subjects miserable for her own amusement. All of this stemming from the fact she never takes a more active role like Luna does or deals with problems directly, or that she simply doesn’t care.

This episode helps clarify things for me. First and foremost is that Celestia does care as well, just not in the same way Luna does. Luna is against being open and social and believes in demonstrating her power to fix problems directly. Celestia, as hinted at in “Celestial Advice” and throughout the series, on the other hand, doesn’t so much as shirk her duty as a princess as believes that most ponies don’t need her as a princess. To her, she believes ponies can solve their own problems if they pause to think about it or, perhaps, “get a slight nudge in the right direction”. She’s showed this throughout the series. Celestia gave very little advice in “Celestial Advice”. Instead, she let Twilight talk about everything that was bothering her and let her know that she didn’t have to worry. She never actually told Twilight what to do; Twilight decided that on her own. In the pilot episode, all she did was send Twilight to Ponyville knowing that the rest of the girls would be just what she needed and let Twilight go from there. In “The Return of Harmony”, rather than try to help stop Discord herself, she just sent Twilight the letters and the girls were able to go from there.

But does that mean that just because ponies can fix their own problems that they will fix their own problems? Of course not, and that’s why Celestia acts the way she does. She believes in the power of her position as well, but in a different way than Luna sees it. She knows other ponies see her as someone powerful and glorious and that to even be acknowledged by her or in her presence makes them feel important and good about themselves. That’s why it’s so important to her that she make all of her public appearances and shows ponies that “she cares”. Celestia barely knows Starlight other than by reputation (and, in fact, the night they were supposed to meet she got stood up by her), but in this episode she goes out of her way to make her breakfast herself every morning, gives her a royal suite while she’s staying at the palace, and even puts her to bed herself when she falls asleep assisting her in starting her work for the evening. And even when she and Luna are disagreeing with each other, she does make more of an effort than Luna to try and do something for her (note after Luna picks up a pineapple the first day and skips the pancakes, the next day Celestia puts pineapple on the pancakes). Celestia may be, at least in modern Equestria, more of a figurehead ruler than anything, but she realizes her importance as one and that’s why she goes out of her way to continuously make everypony believe their time and concerns are important to her. And yes, that can be very emotionally draining. To always be “smiling”, showing concern and empathy for every individual and making them feel they’re valued…that’s not something everyone can do.

Yet Celestia doesn’t mind it because she’s naturally a social individual. She doesn’t just handle being around lots of other individuals; she likes being around others. She’s not at her most effective without the company of other ponies. Just like Luna may be a natural loner, she’s a natural social butterfly. Does she want quiet and solitude at times? Yes. Does keeping things up for a crowd get to be too much some times and stress her out? Yes. But ultimately, she prefers being surrounded by others because making them happy makes her happy. It’s being alone and being forced to deal with threats all alone that makes her uncomfortable. Note that in this episode she says about Luna “even when we were apart I knew I needed her”. And that’s true. Ever notice that Celestia’s “glory days” of defeating things with her own power stopped after Luna’s banishment? Or that she goes for Luna in help with Starlight’s nightmare? Even if Celestia does have power, she needs support to use the full measure of it. (More on this in a little while…)

Finally, the scene-stealing mare…

While this episode might have been a great Celestia/Luna episode, and even a good episode for Starlight Glimmer, the one who stole the show was who became for a time the series’ “best villain”: Daybreaker. After years of speculating on what an “Evil Celestia” would look among the fandom, we were treated to this character. And really, she’s a scream. Her design is genuinely intimidating and appropriate, but her personality is what’s even more striking. While Nightmare Moon is smug, arrogant, and prideful, Daybreaker is insane, vicious, and vain. Whereas Nightmare Moon laughed evilly before, it was always from a position of pride and haughtiness. Daybreaker does it because she’s crazy and gleefully loves venting her power. I love how she has little bits like where when she says: “the better, prettier, and more powerful version of you“, she actually preens herself just a tad on saying “prettier”. Also I love how she claps her own hooves in delight. You can tell Nicole Oliver had a lot of fun voicing her after six seasons of needing to do the motherly voices of Celestia and Cheerilee.

Fans loved her, but she nevertheless kicked off a bit of controversy. Just how “real” was Daybreaker? Was she never anything more than a bad dream Starlight was having with no more substance than that? Was she a very tangible threat who stood a chance of becoming as real as Nightmare Moon did? Was she somewhere in the middle?

All sorts of arguments were taken for all sides. I don’t think the evidence is there for either extreme myself…although I will say this in favor of the “worst case scenario”. The exact nature of Nightmare Moon is still poorly understood, as I stated in earlier reviews. It’s unclear (seemingly even to the writers) as to whether or not she was something external to Luna that took her over or if she’s Luna herself consumed by her own jealousy. One thing the second half of this season did, and especially the season finale, was start to make it lore and canon that there is an external negative “force” (which Stygian would later simply call “the darkness”) somehow over Equestria that seems naturally opposed to the same force that gives things like Cutie Marks, the Pillars, and the Elements of Harmony. A sort of “religious mythos” that was get glimpses of from time to time. Perhaps it’s nothing more than negative feelings, but by latching onto negative feelings it can manifest itself through Equestrian magic as reality. As demonstrated in “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?”, Luna’s own power is a tall responsibility because it works two-ways. On one hand, it allows her to go into the dreams of ponies and see their darkest and most negative fears and sides. Yet on the other, it allows those same fears and dark sides, if they get out of control, to use her as a gateway into the real world. The Tantabus nearly did that, and after this episode it’s starting to look as if Nightmare Moon was her own nightmare that grew beyond her power to control and manifested itself through her. (No wonder Luna looks so tired every morning…she’s got to work hard to put all this stuff down every night.)

But that said, I don’t think that possibility was present here. It’s clear neither Celestia nor Luna were afraid that Daybreaker would somehow escape into the real world. Luna’s sole concern was that Starlight would have psychological damage from the out-of-control nightmare. Nevertheless, Daybreaker was more than just some dark possibility in Starlight’s mind. Whether by accident that Starlight’s fears ended up being so spot on, or by intentional in that somehow Starlight’s nightmare fed off of Celestia and began to become her nightmare as well, it’s clear that there was some “truth” in Daybreaker. Celestia is clearly uncomfortable when she’s defending against Daybreaker’s accusations. If they were all together false, she could have denied them outright. The fact Celestia didn’t fear Nightmare Moon at all but feared Daybreaker indicates she knew Nightmare Moon was just an illusion with no substance (because she knows Luna won’t go back to being her again), but that Daybreaker is a possibility she’s actually scared of coming true. One way or another, even if it’s such a small possibility that it’s effectively impossible, Celestia is scared that Daybreaker could become real.

And that, as a result, addresses the biggest concern people have with Celestia’s character: the notion that she’s too weak and incompetent to do anything to help her subjects and always has to rely on others. How I personally understand it, the truth is…she is powerful enough to deal with everything on her own. She’s strong enough to “have it all” just like Daybreaker said. But she doesn’t want to. She’s scared of her own power. She’s scared she’ll become a bloodthirsty maniac of a tyrant like Daybreaker is. So, similar to Superman, she constantly holds herself back both consciously and subconsciously. Daybreaker indicated it herself; other ponies “stand in her way”. She’s too afraid of hurting those she cares about to use her full power so she doesn’t. And since she genuinely cares about everypony, that means she can’t do much more than be the “figurehead goddess”. She can’t even bring out some of her full power unless she has Luna at her side.

From that viewpoint, this episode not only addresses Celestia’s character but also answers one of the most long-standing criticisms of the series. And that makes this episode even better to me.

As much as I wanted to give “Twilight’s Kingdom” 5 Stars, I wanted to give this one 5 Stars so much more… But…ugh…

The old “Paradox of Starlight Glimmer” rears its ugly head once again, and this time it’s a real shame because I don’t think it needed it except to pad out the episode. Starlight would have been fine mostly on her own in this episode. Yet…Twilight Sparkle constantly interjects, and in this episode she not only fails to do anything to help but clearly is the reason everything gets so bad. Starlight is perfectly calm and composed about helping Celestia and Luna, but Twilight keeps bringing up reasons for her to be nervous until she does get nervous. She’s the one who brings up the idea that Celestia and Luna could reignite their old feud, which is why Starlight has the nightmare. Being neurotic is nothing new for Twilight, but to actually drive other ponies to be neurotic as well is a mark against her. While I thought Celestia, Luna, and Starlight were great in this episode, I didn’t like how Twilight, similar to “No Second Prances”, was once again made out to be “an obstacle to Starlight’s greatness”.

But the other plot hole is far harder to overlook.

The idea of Princess Luna spending a day in Princess Celestia’s shoes was actually done once already in the IDW Comics. In that one, it was more than clear that Celestia had the harder job and that Luna was served a (humorous) slice of humble pie as a result of it, and it was capped off with Celestia being something of a troll. This one did it much better and was far more appropriate, officially making that comic non-canon, showing that it’s not so much the respective difficulty of their jobs so much as to what the two are ideally suited to, just like any other ponies with their Cutie Marks. (I’m sure Rainbow Dash would find Twilight Sparkle’s job of “being an egghead” boring and frustrating while Twilight would have no idea how to be as athletic or “awesome” as Dash and both would conclude the other had the harder job, for example.) But one thing it did point out as a result was the fact that Celestia already knows what it’s like to “be Luna”. She has to: she did it for a thousand years while Luna was banished to the moon.

Now, one can make the argument that all Celestia did was raise the sun and the moon…although they did goof on that as well when Celestia remarked that raising the moon was easier than raising the sun. Especially since Luna points out only her magic has the ability to enter and manipulate dreams (it was Celestia that connected Luna to Starlight’s dream, not Luna’s own actions). Yet that, of course, raises another question: did ponies just have really bad nightmares for a thousand years? My own headcanon is that somehow becoming “the Mare in the Moon” allowed Luna’s influence to continue to help mitigate the effects of bad dreams for a thousand years through her image if not her direct action, but there’s no support for that. It’s a rather glaring error, but…one I can blot out of my head if I focus on headcanon.

Aside from that, it’s a fantastic episode. We finally get into Celestia’s character, we get more into Luna’s character and her relationship with Celestia, it’s an episode that makes good use of Starlight’s positive and negative qualities, it’s entertaining as well as dramatic, and it gave us possibly the most entertaining villain of the series even if she wasn’t a “real villain”. To me, this was where I started to realize just how great Season Seven was going to end up being.

Unfortunately, the next episode would be a major step down with everyone’s “favorite” characters… (groans like Starlight)

Fun Facts:

This episode established that the Cutie Map can dispatch individuals other than the Mane Six. I hate to point out yet another incidence of ‘Mare-y Sue’, but…Starlight Glimmer is the first character who can solve a friendship problem all on her own. :/

It’s worth noting when this episode begins, Luna stands alongside the throne at a slightly lower position. By the time “Shadow Play” would hit, the throne would be enlarged so that both sisters could sit on it simultaneously (possibly as a result of this episode). As pointed out in an earlier review, the movie featured two thrones of equal stature for either princess.

Needless to say, Music Box Ballerina Twilight Sparkle was quite popular after this episode…although nothing could top You-Know-Who. 🙂

An interesting animation detail. The first day Starlight stays at the Royal Palace, Celestia offers Luna pancakes but she ignores them and just grabs a pineapple from the fruit basket. The second day…Celestia has put pineapple on the pancakes. It’s a sign that although the two sisters are both at fault for not appreciating each other, Celestia is at least “trying a little”. By comparison, Luna, the “less sociable of the two”, has absolutely no problem physically/magically shoving Starlight to one side a couple times in this episode.

Another minor animation goof. In Season Four’s “Twilight’s Kingdom”, when Luna had her Cutie Mark removed she retained the blackness behind it, leading many fans to think she had a birthmark and just the moon was her Cutie Mark. Yet in this episode, when Starlight switches their Cutie Marks, the blackness goes with the moon onto Celestia.

Another interesting animation detail. When the sisters switch Cutie Marks, their magic auras (gold for Celestia; light blue for Luna) switch as well.

Nicole Oliver gets to have all sorts of fun voice acting in this episode, especially as Daybreaker, but I think the prize for best line goes to: “What.”

Among the dreams that pass by Celestia are a tiny Fluttershy riding a giant Angel Bunny (likely Fluttershy “being the pet” again as she was in “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?”), Cadance rocking out to a DJ Flurry Heart (I honestly don’t know which one is having the dream…), Discord and the Smooze having a (one-sided) pillow fight, the Flim-Flam Brothers striking it rich, Queen Derpy (with the Twilicane, no less), and Doctor Whooves dodging the pony version of a Weeping Angel (O_o). One of the surprising dreams, however, is an unseen pony rocking baby Applejack. The coat color doesn’t correspond to Bright Macintosh or Pear Butter…

Ever since Season One, the idea of a “Nightmare Moon Version” of Princess Celestia was extremely popular among the fandom. Probably the version that became the most popular and went the most viral was a fanmade character called “Solar Flare”. Eventually, Hasbro included an “evil Celestia” version in their collectible card game officially known as “Nightmare Star”, likely because going with Solar Flare would have introduced copyright issues that would be impossible to resolve as no one knows which fan originally came up with Solar Flare at this point. Finally, this episode made an evil Celestia officially canon in the form of “Daybreaker”, who is distinct from both other renditions. Among her numerous art details, probably the most stunning is how her eyes are flaming embers. Unlike Nightmare Moon, her wing coverlets are armored as well. Unlike Celestia, she has a red outline.

“Starlight’s” toothbrush is clearly Spike’s. 😛

Rating:

4.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Nine: “Honest Apple”

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Synopsis:

To try and help other new up-and-coming designers get exposure, Rarity is holding a special fashion show in Ponyville for new talent of which the winner gets to feature their line at Carousel Boutique. While she’s gotten Hoity Toity and Photo Finish, two notable ponies in the world of fashion, to act as judges, she surprises Applejack by asking her to be the third judge as she wants her to add a touch of practicality to fashion and to utilize her honesty. Applejack is standoffish at first, but on thinking about how she knows about making clothes practical she agrees. Unfortunately, things go sour when Applejack is shown to the work of the three contestants, Lily Lace, Starstreak, and Inky Rose, as she finds all of their designs and ideas silly, impractical, or ugly, and freely and loudly voices her opinion about them. She eventually gets so worked up that she declares the whole idea of being into fashion ridiculous, causing the judges and contestants to storm off angrily and ruin the show. Applejack defends her actions, saying she was simply giving her honest opinion. In response, Rarity introduces Applejack to Strawberry Sunrise–a pony who hates apples and isn’t afraid to share her opinion. On seeing herself get enraged at how casually Strawberry dismisses the hard work and effort she puts into making good apples simply because she doesn’t like them as much as other ponies, Applejack realizes the mistake she made. As a result, she (literally) ropes in the judges and contestants and brings them back, apologizing for her earlier comments and saying she can appreciate all the hard work they put into fashion. As a result, they decide to go forward with the contest, this time with Applejack quietly helping the designers finish their work for the show. At the actual fashion show, the designers end up in a three-way tie and look to Applejack for the deciding vote. She ends up choosing all of them, as she felt they all put in a deserving amount of effort to make their designs perfect. The episode ends with Rarity and Applejack mutually deciding that one of Rarity’s failed designs was horrible.

Review:

Another solid episode. Was it “good”? It definitely wasn’t bad, that’s for sure. And it was definitely better than the first Applejack/Rarity episode, which was Season One’s “Look Before You Sleep”, and, in my opinion, also better than “Simple Ways” and “Maid in Manehattan”. That’s not saying too much, however. I love Rarity, but she and Applejack are pretty much the most “straight mares” out of the Mane Six, and Applejack episodes are, as a general rule that I have declared many a time, bland. Still, I think this might be the best Applejack/Rarity episode of the entire series, and cameos by Pinkie Pie and Photo Finish help liven things up quite a bit.

Fluttershy gets the most hell for having a hard time growing past her character flaws, but in truth Applejack is probably just as bad an offender. As Pinkie Pie pointed out back in “Hearthbreakers”, she’s pushy, aggressive, and mean. And while Fluttershy actively tries to improve her own character traits, Applejack is so stubborn and traditional that she ends up not only clinging to them but often doubling-down.

As a result, one thing I liked about this episode was how Rarity dealt with it. She didn’t bother getting into an arguing match with Applejack once she realized she had “entrenched herself” and was ready to be stubborn. Instead, she wisely put the shoe on the other foot and let Applejack condemn herself with her own reactions. And, of course, I also loved the now meme-worthy Rarity shredding on guitar.

Nevertheless, the rest of this episode doesn’t hit as hard as one might think, and that’s even with Pinkie Pie and Photo Finish along for the ride. It’s not that it doesn’t try. Lily Lace’s way of talking and Inky Rose being a pony ripped right out of Hot Topic definitely do their best. It’s just…not quite as effective as one might think. It ends up being a good episode, but probably not one that will rank as a must-see on anyone’s list.

Fun Facts:

Applejack says that her closet is nothing but twenty versions of her same hat. This was shown on screen in “Somepony to Watch Over Me”. 😛

I just want to say I like how the animation flows together for when Rarity picks up the rest of the fliers en masse with her horn.

At one point, Applejack indicates to Apple Bloom that she’s the one member of the family into fashion. This actually makes sense. It’s a callback all the way back to Season One’s “The Show Stoppers” when Apple Bloom showed off she was the best at making costumes out of the CMCs.

One of the nice details in this episode is how Photo Finish is even more “Photo Finish-y” than usual, such as calling out all of her actions. I especially like one part where everyone is gasping and she simply yells: “Gasp!”

We finally get a look at Photo Finish’s eyes for the first time, when she removes her sunglasses after Applejack says: “These are clothes?”

By far, the most amusing, and infamous, part of this episode is when Rarity shreds a killer guitar solo on an acoustic, two-stringed guitar. Pinkie’s frizz has been freaked. 🙂

The bit with Hoity Toity and Photo Finish arguing over which belt to use that Applejack finds funny is similar to a scene in “The Devil Wears Prada”.

While all of the contestants have their quirks, I think Andrea Libman had the most fun voicing Lily Lace, with her constant stream of Valley Girl euphemisms. Among them is how she keeps overusing the word “literally”. It eventually it gets to the point where Applejack says the word doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. A similar joke with Vizzini and the word “inconceivable” occurs in the movie “The Princess Bride”.

Strawberry Sunrise is voiced by Maggie Blue O’Hara, a veteran voice actor who mostly does anime dubs…the most notable of which was one of the voices of Bulma in “Dragonball Z”. However, she was the voice of Sweetheart as one of the main characters of the short-lived “My Little Pony Tales” series, where she co-stared with Kelly Sheridan (the voice of Starlight Glimmer).

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Eight: “Hard to Say Anything”

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Synopsis:

The Cutie Mark Crusaders notice that Big Macintosh has been making lots of large apple deliveries to Starlight’s old village and decide to tag along, and realize on arrival that all of the apple deliveries have been going to one pony: Sugar Belle. It turns out Big Mac has a crush on her and has been using them, as well as her desire to have more ingredients to make more baked goods, to see her continuously. The CMCs encourage him to tell her how he feels, but he soon gets dissuaded when it turns out she also has eyes for a cassanova of a pony named Feather Bangs. The CMCs decide to help him out by suggesting he do various things from fairy tales to try and win Sugar Belle’s heart, but Feather Bangs upstages him each time. Finally, the two get into an over-elaborate and loud sing-off, which annoys Sugar Belle so much she snaps at them both to leave her alone. Sad and dismayed, Big Mac sulks off along with the frustrated and downcast CMCs, who wonder why the fairy tales didn’t work. When Big Mac points out that Sugar Belle isn’t a “fairy tale princess” and instead things of everything he loves about her, the CMCs decide they need to do something special for her rather than try to imitate stories. As a result, they help distract Sugar Belle long enough to help Big Mac build her a new display case twice as big as her older one, which was exactly what she mentioned to Big Mac earlier she wished she had. The gesture endears Big Mac to her and they become each other’s “very special somepony”. The CMCs learn a lesson about relationships and, in a surprising twist, end up finding themselves needing to help out Feather Bangs with his own Cutie Mark problem when it turns out he only knows how to woo mares…not how to actually talk to them.

Review:

I can’t help but frown a bit at this episode. One of the show’s biggest controversies ended up being Big Macintosh and Marble Pie. On a personal note, I thought the two were great together. It’s only of the only shippings I ever endorsed. But…sigh…fans got way too hung up on the fact that Pinkie Pie and Applejack might be very distantly related and many insisted such a pairing was incest, and they were so loud about it the writers would actually make fun of it later this season. So…this.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love for Rebecca Shoichet to have more roles on the show as she has a great ability to constant make herself sound different from character to character. But…I liked Marble Pie better, and I think, similar to Maud, she could have been played off of a lot more. That’s my personal beef with this episode.

Aside from that, the plot is alright but not that much else to me. Similar to Applejack, Big Macintosh is ok as a bit part but he’s pretty bland like the rest of the Apples. In many ways, this episode is an upgrade from Season Two’s “Hearts and Hooves Day”, which is considered by many to be one of the worst episodes in the series. It shows how the writers have gotten a lot more clever in handling love in a plausible way yet still keeping everything Y-rated, and I compliment it for that. And while on the second watching this episode feels more padded than it was, it’s a good kind of padding. The kind that keeps things moving without being obvious. Even the song was fitting. The CMCs still haven’t really learned about love yet, which figures as they’re not old enough for it yet, but the resolution seemed a lot better than the “Hearts and Hooves Day” one also, so I give that to it too.

Much of the humor fell flat on me in this one except for some of the CMC jokes, mostly because almost all of it derives from Feather Bangs being a Justin Bieber ripoff. I’ve never really paid attention to him as a performer, so I didn’t quite get the jokes in many instances or found them that sharp. And while everything in this episode and Big Mac/Sugar Belle is perfectly plausible, it didn’t really seem all that fitting or perfect in this one. I think it would have been more endearing if after this Sugar Belle started showing up at Apple family events or something. We may still get that in Season Eight but, for right now, it just seemed kind of there and a bit unnecessary. I would have thought Big Mac/Marble Pie was necessary, but that’s kind of gone by the wayside now.

And I’m never going to be able to enjoy “Hearthbreakers” quite as much again because of this episode. 😦

Fun Facts:

The title of the episode is likely a knockoff of the romantic comedy “Say Anything”, only keying off of how Big Macintosh normally says nothing.

Starlight’s old village still doesn’t have a name yet. I’m starting to wonder if it’s official name is “Starlight’s Old Village”. 😛

It’s hard to tell what the CMCs are saying when they talk over each other in the beginning, but subtitles reveal the three things are “taking up skiiing lessons”, “training for a marathon”, and “cooking a lot of broccoli so he wants to get away from the smell”. All three are completely clueless. No wonder “Hearts and Hooves Day” happened.

Sugar Belle, as in her first appearance, is voiced by Rebecca Shoichet, the voice of Sunset Shimmer. Really, if no one pointed that out, I’d never know it.

When the CMCs say that Sugar Belle “sure likes her apples”, and considering the fact that Big Macintosh is “an Apple”…just write your own joke. 😛

Big Macintosh’s special “eeyup” that he says when the CMCs, uh, “reveal themselves” is sort of ill-founded. He didn’t recognize they weren’t apples earlier, after all. 😛

Marble Pie doesn’t even get mentioned on “former crushes”. Sigh.

Feather Bangs is, if it wasn’t obvious, the pony version of Justin Bieber. He’s the first pony with “frosted tips”.

Ironically, some of the shots in this episode indicate Sweetie Belle is somewhat attracted to Feather Bangs also.

Similar to Disney’s animated version of “Beauty and the Beast”, there’s three mares who follow Feather Bangs around everywhere and sigh dreamily at him. Ironically, one of them is the pony version of Belle from the same movie. 😛

The CMCs have vastly improved on their ability to feature musical numbers since “The Show Stoppers”.

While Sugar Belle ultimately was irritated by both musical numbers, it’s worth noting she was “going along” with Big Mac’s at first. The most bizarre part to me is when Feather Bangs does the bit from “Flashdance”…only with, uh, cheese fondue…

Sugar Belle points out how Starlight’s former village is simply the one street. 😛

Double Diamond, Party Favor, and Night Glider all make background appearances but none have any speaking roles (in spite of the fact Rebecca Shoichet is also the voice of Night Glider).

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Seven: “Parental Glideance”

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Synopsis:

Scootaloo is doing a school report on the most inspirational pony in her life on (naturally) Rainbow Dash, and following a slingshot mishap to launch her to Cloudsdale she ends up by chance landing right in the front yard of Rainbow Dash’s parents, Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles. On learning that she’s a fan of Rainbow Dash, the two reveal themselves to be Rainbow Dash’s biggest fans and show her around the house and all of her old things as well as a number of awards they gave her for almost every achievement she’s made in her entire life. When Scootaloo slips that Rainbow Dash is now a fully Wonderbolt, the two, who were unaware of that fact, are overjoyed and immediately go with Scootaloo to the Wonderbolt Training Grounds to congratulate her. Their rather loud cheering and overemotional reactions, however, soon cause a scene and leave Dash rather embarrassed. It only gets worse when her parents begin following her around at her shows and public events, going over the top with their cheering and celebration at everything Dash does. Finally, when they follow her into the locker room to congratulate her for hanging a towel, Dash snaps and angrily blows up at them for their behavior and tells them to leave her alone; reducing her parents to tears and making them run off miserably. Scootaloo, upset at how Dash treated them, runs off as well, causing Dash to run after her and explain. She reveals that ever since she was young her parents had always loudly cheered and supported her to an excessive degree; at first when all she could win was participant trophies and growing louder as she started to actually place in competitions, causing her endless embarrassment from the scenes they made. Scootaloo, however, points out that having over-supportive parents isn’t really too bad of a thing, and that she wishes she had parents like that as her own never expected her to do anything. She further points out that Rainbow Dash’s self-confident and self-assured demeanor came from them always telling her she would be the best at anything she tried. Realizing the error of her ways, Dash (after reconciling with Scootaloo) gets the rest of the Wonderbolts to surprise her parents with a special performance and declares herself her parents’ “biggest fan”. Later, as Scootaloo concludes her report, due to using too many photos and including half of an eaten sandwich, she only gets a B from Ms. Cheerilee…but Dash, Bow, and Windy, now her “honorary family”, cheer her on none the less.

Review:

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that this episode ended up so hated by fans. I’m guessing it’s because many of them are probably still too young or live with their own parents. To be honest, it is an episode with a just a touch of a muddled moral, but…it’s so light I’ll consider this more of a “smudged” one.

The fact is Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles did go too far. Even the other ponies in the episode acknowledged it, and anyone who has ever been a child on a team and experienced that “one set of parents” getting too loud and crazy would know what it’s like. (Although, in all fairness, Bow and Windy were merely too exuberant and not psychotic and making threats or insulting other players like many crazed soccer moms and dads do.) The only pony who seemed to not notice that they had gone too far was Scootaloo herself. As a result, part of her own anger at Rainbow Dash was unjustified, and part of Dash’s own anger was justified. Did she handle it in the best way or tactfully? Not at all. But they did need to “tone it down” a little. They still could have been supportive of Dash without causing scenes, because they were embarrassing themselves as much as her.

The problem is many fans made too much of a jump from there and did think that most of Rainbow Dash’s reaction was warranted. It wasn’t. First she tried to omit her parents from her life all together by not telling them about anything she was doing. (This wouldn’t be the last time this season Dash would try to avoid confronting ponies over something by omitting the truth…) Second, she didn’t explain properly that they were going too far–she made the jump straight into telling them to leave her alone all together. For all those of you who thought everything Dash did is justified…I hope you never reach a point in your life where someone you care about and someone who you thought cared about you dismisses you as “an annoying embarrassment”. It tends to hurt quite a bit to be treated as living garbage.

Thirdly…

Remember the movie “Elf”? If you haven’t seen it, Buddy, a character raised by elves, reunites with his perfectly normal human father, his second wife, and his half-brother. He “treats every day like it’s Christmas”; and is constantly cheerful, joyful, and is spreading good cheer through an assortment of childish, playful, and heedless-of-impact-on-civilized-society acts of decorating, cookie making, sugar consumption, and toy crafting. It’s quite honestly very childish, silly, and even at times downright shocking at how much of a clash it is with normal society. Yet he’s always determined to spread that same inner child-like joy he has to everyone around him and he’s always dauntless no matter in what ways it clashes with less-cheerful individuals. On the surface for most of the film, he does just seem like a big, annoying, man-child who ruins everything and is a colossal embarrassment and disaster.

Yet…near the end of the film…one character points it out quite simply: “Buddy cares about everyone.” For all of his inability to grasp society and his childish behavior, Buddy actually makes people happy around him and is a genuinely good-natured person who is never mean, callous, or hardened by anything “ugly” in the world. If we dislike that sort of individual just because he acts more over-zealous and childish than we expect…is that really such a bad thing? Considering all the truly bad things in the world, is it even really a justifiable complaint?

The same thing here. If the only crime Rainbow Dash’s parents are guilty of is being too loud and overzealous, that’s really not that bad in the grand scheme of things. There’s a lot worse. She could have parents like Spoiled Rich, for example.

Or, as hinted at in this episode, she could have parents like Scootaloo’s.

I’m not sure if the Y-rating will allow it, but in this episode we learn something new about Scootaloo. It’s well-known at this point she spends very little time at home and as much as she can with the CMCs or Rainbow Dash, the latter of whom she looks up to as an older sister. It’s so pronounced that there has been a lot of fanfiction proposing the idea she’s an orphan. This episode, however, shows it’s much worse: she has parents that just don’t care. It’s hinted at with a bit of body language that it might be even worse than that; that Scootaloo’s parents are “embarrassed” because she’s a pegasus that can’t fly and told her that she’d never amount to anything. If that’s true…move over, Spoiled Rich. We’ve got new “worst parents” on MLP.

As a quick aside, this is why I don’t think fans should be too excited about the new Scootaloo junior novel that’s coming out. Many of the junior novels contain canon bits that never appear on the show, and there was considerable buzz a few weeks ago when it was revealed Scootaloo doesn’t live with her parents but with her aunts. A few passages in the book hint that her aunts aren’t sisters but are, in fact, a lesbian couple. That excited a lot of fans, but…I’m not sure they should be. The show has made it abundantly clear that Scootaloo’s home life isn’t great.

So much, in fact, that by the end of this episode (in what I thought was a rather cute moment), Rainbow Dash’s own parents seem to “unofficially adopt” her. (Note that even before the ending, Bow and Windy have taken up praising Scootaloo for every little thing she does, such as tying blindfolds on them.)

It’s for cute moments like that as well as the fact I can see the “silver lining” in Rainbow Dash’s parents’ behavior I compliment this episode a bit more highly than others.

Best parent introductory episode ever! Whoo-hoo! Gooooo…DHX! 😛

Fun Facts:

Rainbow Dash’s father, Bow Hothoof, was first introduced in a flashback in Season Three’s “Games Ponies Play”. Aside from that, he made one other brief background appearance in Season Six’s “A Hearth’s Warming Tail”.

Clouds need to be mowed…for some reason.

The appearance of Rainbow Dash’s parents continues the trend with Rarity and Fluttershy’s parents….namely that coat color comes from one parent and mane color comes from the other. Pony genetics are weird. 😛

Way back in Season Two’s “Read It and Weep”, Rainbow Dash’s X-Ray revealed the unusual structure of pegasi wings. Their “feathers” are, in fact, musculoskeletal structures, with each one having a bone inside them. This makes their wings somewhat more analogous to bat wings rather than bird wings. This episode, however, marks the first and, thus far, only episode in which pegasi wings are actually prehensile; allowing them to use their individual feathers as digits as on a hand. But for only one episode, it’s definitely ramped in. Wings are used to plug ears, shake hands, and make gestures.

Windy Whistles’ second-biggest fandom must be Princess Celestia, considering all of the memorabilia she keeps in her living room.

Rainbow Dash’s favorite food as a filly was a potato-and-pasta sandwich on sourdough. It’s a real power lunch at 8,000 calories. 😛

At one point, Bow calls Rainbow Dash: “Our little Dashy”. “My Little Dashy” is one of the most infamous fanfics ever written for the MLP:FIM fandom.

The fact that many of the pictures and flashbacks of Rainbow Dash as a filly are from what looks like the 1980s indicates Rainbow Dash might be as old as her 30s.

Scootaloo recounts the events of Season Three’s “Wonderbolt Academy” and Season Five’s “Rarity Investigates!” Notably absent is Season Four’s “Testing, Testing, 1 2 3”, in which Rainbow Dash had to pass a written exam to officially join the Wonderbolt Reserve, and Season Six’s “Newbie Dash”…both of which had events where Scootaloo helped out personally.

Sky Stinger and Vapor Trail briefly cameo walking past the locker rooms.

Rainbow Dash actually physically smacks Bo’s hoof away during the blow-up.

The other pegasi in Rainbow Dash’s flashback reveal some interesting trends. When Rainbow Dash only won a participant sticker, three of the notable future Wonderbolts, Spitfire, Soarin, and Fleetfoot, all placed. Hoops and the bullies also only got participant stickers, but they still look ready to mock Dash. Even more shocking…Lightning Dust placed ahead of Spitfire. The first time Rainbow Dash placed, Lightning Dust moved to the top spot. The next time, Spitfire actually lost a position. What appears to be filly Derpy, or at least a relative, has her eyes gradually go out-of-whack as the years pass. Eventually, Rainbow Dash unseated everyone including Lightning Dust. However, the event only shows how Spitfire still has “Mr. Burns” syndrome as she would have heard Rainbow Dash’s parents at all of those events and should have remembered them.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #153: “Boo Him Out!”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Daring Done?”

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie encounter A.K. Yearling a.k.a Daring Do in a rather bad spot of depression in this episode. It turns out while most of her heroic exploits in the far off corners of Equestria go admired and heralded by her fans, the locals in the areas she leaves behind in her wake are less than enthused from the collateral damage. Having never stopped to think about the side effects of her adventuring, Daring is left wondering if she has, in fact, been doing more harm than good when she overhears the anger of local residents toward the consequences of her fights with thugs and accidental mishaps on local landmarks. And while most of her adventures ended up having a lot of benefits in the form of stopping power-hungry villains and keeping thieves from grabbing historical treasures, the criticisms  from locals who never experienced them firsthand grow so loud she thinks of throwing in the towel all together.

While in this episode it turned out some of the criticism was due to Dr. Cabelleron’s shenanigans, and Daring Do did end up making amends for some of her damage in the finale, in a more general sense it illustrates a larger dilemma faced by most everyone. If you make a stand for anything, if you take a side on anything, or if you do anything that causes you to step out from the norm or take a more activist role, you’re not only going to face criticism…you’re going to have it pointed out and rubbed in your face why you’re wrong.

I’ll pick on a few social issues. The death penalty, for example. A lot of people are against it and with good reason; namely the sheer number of inmates who had been eligible for the death penalty when they received a sentence of life in prison who ended up being found innocent after decades of serving wrongful sentences. Or the fact that the death penalty is heavily race and gender biased. Proponents, however, will counter with how overcrowded prisons are, how expensive it is to keep inmates alive, the fact that there are at least some people who are consummate, unrepentant killers, and even the fact that there are places in the world so corrupt that escaping from prison is a relatively small matter (“El Chapo” comes to mind). If any of these escapees end up killing someone else, you can bet that the proponents will accuse the anti-death penalty crowd of having “blood on their hands”.

Having less ramifications but no less contentious is universal, government-provided health care. Individuals opposed to it cite the tax increases it will need to support it, the fact that it will reduce competition as government-run agencies need no accountability or profits, and the fact that it will give government the ability to start regulating everything from amounts of sugar in our food to how much exercise we have to do in order to be eligible for certain tax rates. Yet critics would argue, and rightly so, that our current system has led to sky-rocketing medical care costs for care that is much cheaper to receive in many other countries, and leaves economically disadvantaged people with no way to pay for medical care as they are forced to let themselves and their families get sicker or overload ERs. Whoever ends up seriously ill or even dead from an easily treatable cause that could have been prevented is an argument in favor of trying at least something new that will give care to everyone.

For the Christian, the criticisms are all too evident and widespread. Christians claim they want to heal everyone in the world, both emotionally and spiritually as well as physically, by being the living representatives of Jesus Christ and to lead them to Him for salvation from sins. We profess that Christ is the only hope for a doomed world and that forming a relationship with Him will lead everyone to have life and have it more abundantly. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) And yet, critics will point out just how flawed most Christians are. All of our weaknesses, all of our screw-ups, and especially all of the times Christianity was just another title slapped over some form of a oppressor. Whether it be against the Crusaders, white supremacists, Puritans, or Conquistadors, critics of Christianity can make the claim that Christians have brought more misery, hate, injustice, and intolerance to the world rather than less. They argue how we can claim to have such a world-saving message or to be the “light of the world” if we only “make things darker”.

All Christians…at least, those who are truly trying to be honest with themselves…will concede that they are far from perfect. They’re still in the flesh and reliant completely on Christ’s Sacrifice to justify them; realizing even after accepting our Lord that by our own efforts we are the very antithesis of holy and saintly. But even then, when we are faced with this list of condemnations through the evidence of history and all those who did wrong in the name of Christianity that we may feel disheartened in our Christian walk. Like it or not, by taking on the name of “Christian” we will be counted by the world as the same as that number. And it may feel impossible to make an impact on some people in the wake of that.

At times like this, it is important to remember a couple things.

The first, and foremost to me, is to acknowledge that we as individuals are not our ancestors or even our fellow Christians. We are ourselves, and ultimately it is our own actions we are accountable for. If we feel that we are being judged by the standard of the worst individuals ever to hold the title “Christian”, then we owe it to those same people who we happen to pass by not only to go in the same old tirade of “those weren’t ‘real’ Christians”, but far more importantly to show them what a real Christian is like. If we feel Christians of the past did wrong, then it’s up to us to show how different someone who genuinely follows the Word of God is, and most importantly how Lord Jesus Christ is really like. Otherwise, we’re nothing more than argumentative and, as the old saying goes, “talk is cheap”. I dare say it is even a weighty responsibility, as we might be the only example of a Christian someone will ever see at a key time in their life.

The second (if you’re already doing the first part and still see no change in opinion) is to remember an important fact: no one ever changes anything in the world without making enemies. If the planet could naturally change into something better without opposition, it would already be there. The world is the way it is because some (possibly many) people like it how it is right now even if it means injustice, oppression, or misery for some, and they won’t like things changing away from that at least at first. Look at history and you will see that no one ever did a single thing that changed the world for good or evil that didn’t make a lot of people mad…or even violent. And many people in history who are considered heroes by us, either as Christians or whatever nationality we hail from, are considered villains by many others even to this very day.  You will never please everyone, which is why no one should go through life making decisions with the intention of being loved by everybody. Rather, as Christians, our focus should ultimately be on pleasing God. “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

And at times that will mean displeasing everyone else…including other Christians. For that reason also, it is important to never neglect one’s devotional life and relationship with God, nor to fail to critically examine ourselves from time to time to see where we are at. Not doing so can quickly lead to the foundation of our faith not being based on the Gospel but on what other people “tell us the Gospel is”.

While I do not believe any Christian should ever go out of their way simply to antagonize others, we should realize if we follow God we will eventually whether intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, always strive to maintain a clean conscience and honesty both with ourselves and with God. That way we will know we have pure motives and, as a result, we’ll know which criticism to take to heart and put the rest aside. Most importantly, we will know when to recognize that a ministry is not accomplishing its purpose, and when to have the faith to endure through a current trial for the good that it will do.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your promise–not that we will live lives free from affliction and persecution even when we are doing good, but that you will deliver us from all that rises against us. Help me to be brave, courageous, and steadfast in times when I am confronting oppression as a result of seeking to do your will, and to instead cling more fiercely to your Word and guidance to see me through. And grant that I always seek your approval over that of mankind. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

 

 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Six: “Forever Filly”

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Synopsis:

Rarity is hard at work at her boutique in Canterlot setting up for “Springsistion”, when she suddenly gets nostalgic for the time she used to spend with Sweetie Belle. This prompts Sassy Saddles to have her take the day off to spend with her little sister in Ponyville. Meanwhile, back in Ponyville, Sweetie Belle and the other CMCs are getting ready to help Zipporwhil, a filly with a Cutie Mark in caring for dogs whose own “puppy” Ripley has lost interest in her. Rarity shows up right in the middle of the visit and, after some convincing, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo tell her to go ahead and spend the day with Rarity while they help Zipporwhil. Unfortunately, neither side goes well. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are unable to get Ripley to show any interest in Zipporwhil, while Rarity takes Sweetie Belle out to do activities that she’s too old for now. When Rarity insists that she knows her and her favorite things, Sweetie Belle gets angry and storms off to return to the rest of the CMCs and Zipporwhil. After getting upset initially, Rarity finally goes after her to tell her off, but stops on seeing her interacting with Zipporwhil. She realizes the problem is that Zipporwhil is still treating Ripley as a puppy although he’s now a full-grown dog, and tells her that treating him like a puppy won’t make him a puppy again, but that if she appreciates him as the dog he is now he’ll reconnect with her. Her advice works, and Rarity, overhearing all of this, realizes she’s made the same mistake with Sweetie Belle and apologizes, with Sweetie assuring her that even though she’s gotten older she’ll still always love spending time with her. The two of them finish off their day together by heading to the ice cream parlor for “adult-sized” servings and getting a picture of themselves with “ice-cream mouths” together.

Review:

Well, like the previous episode, Rarity would get a good episode eventually this season, but…this, to me, wasn’t it. A real pity this time, though, as it’s also partially a Sweetie Belle episode. Unfortunately, unlike the last episode, this one is another muddled moral.

I get the message they were going for, but, if you’re cynical, even that wasn’t good. The idea was supposed to be that as our younger loved ones get older they change but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected with them as they change. Well…maybe. There’s also a good chance we’ll become such different individuals we’ll never reconnect. Even if we do, usually around the time people change is their teenage years. Anywhere from 10-15 years will be focused on forging one’s own identity in which, in many cases, the growing individual will want to spend little-to-no time with their former siblings. Once done, there’s a good chance they’ll have their own lives with their own relationships and maybe their own family members. The idea that you can so easily grow apart and then reconnect is, well…kind of a fantasy.

Yet even if it wasn’t, too much is forced in this episode. While the voice actors and, possibly, the animators have worked to try and make the CMCs grow older, the writers haven’t. Suddenly in this episode Sweetie Belle is supposed to have matured so much that Rarity barely even recognizes who she is. That makes no sense as the picture at the boutique in Canterlot has Sweetie Belle with her Cutie Mark, and Rarity and her have had episodes together after that. So…the plot was somewhat forced to begin with. It’s a bit excusable because Rarity tends to focus more on what she likes as opposed to what Sweetie Belle likes, and while she and Sweetie Belle got better after “Sisterhooves Social” they’re still clearly not as close as Apple Bloom and Applejack. Yet that only makes it more unusual because there never seems to have been a time in which Rarity and Sweetie Belle did spend a lot of time together unless it was well before the show began.

Frankly, the point that Sweetie Belle now had different interests as an older mare wasn’t really emphasized either. Sweetie is clearly hesitant to spend time with Rarity before they even start doing things, indicating more (in line with my cynical viewpoint) that Sweetie was simply becoming a new, independent individual who didn’t care to spend time with her older sister anymore now that she had her own life. And the dog analogy simply didn’t work out that well as it was too simplistic.

The writers tried to make it work, but there were too many “but what about”s in this episode. It made what should have been a more emotionally impacting episode kind of ho-hum.

Fun Facts:

The opening of this episode is a veritable plethora of Canterlot characters who previously appeared, including the “goth pony” from “Canterlot Boutique”, Fancy Pants and Fleur-de-Lis from “Sweet and Elite”, and even Lemon Hearts and Minuette walking and talking together.

Sassy Saddles makes another appearance. She wouldn’t appear again this season, although she’s helping Rarity out in a non-speaking role in the movie.

The picture that sets Rarity off has Sweetie Belle with her Cutie Mark, which I consider another goof in this episode as that wasn’t too terribly long ago… More on that in my review.

Other fans pointed out they feel, in addition to their voices sounding a bit deeper, the CMCs are getting slightly taller. I agree. I think the show creators are slowly trying to make them “age”.

Zipporwhil first appeared in “Filly Vanilli”, when the Ponytones sang at her Cuteceanera. Ironically, both she and Rarity are voiced by Tabitha St. Germain and both learn the same lesson.

This episode sort of makes Sweetie Belle out to be the the “brainiest” of the CMCs, seeing things the others don’t. There’s a bit of evidence for that in earlier episodes, although this one really rams it in…but I kind of feel it might have been tacked on for this episode to make her look more mature.

One of the pictures on the wall of “satisfied customers” is of Big Macintosh and Ms. Cheerilee. …When did that happen? Definitely not in “Hearts and Hooves Day”. 😛

The puppet booth is the same one from “Inspiration Manifestation”. Apparently that was ok to leave as-is. 😛

Sweetie Belle’s line about how she prefers black-box experimental theater (BTW, she may be older but I have a hard time believing she’s 18+ to be watching black box experimental theater…) goes with her joke in her last episode with Rarity, “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils”, in which she says she prefers “showtunes”. While she may not be a drama queen like her older sister, Sweetie Belle apparently likes drama none the less.

Even the moral with the dog allegory is muddled. So…Ripley didn’t want to play fetch earlier because the ball was too “colorful” and “only appropriate for a puppy”? (He wants to play fetch at the end so it’s not that he was too old.) And he doesn’t seem to like the bone just because it’s little. No dog on Earth is that picky.

Although the characters in the show have taken up calling the Cutie Mark Crusaders “the CMCs”, this is the first time I can recall one of the actual CMCs referring to themselves as such.

In all fairness, the “dress up photos” in Rarity’s album at the beginning are far more older-age appropriate than the ones she tries to take later. Rarity’s chicken costume is the same as Pinkie Pie’s in “Luna Eclipsed” (ironically, Rarity never appeared in that episode) and her butterfly costume has the same wings as in “Sonic Rainboom”.

At first I was a bit confused as to why Rarity and Sweetie Belle didn’t have spoons at the end…then I realized: “What would creatures with hooves do with spoons?”

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Seven, Episode Five: “Fluttershy Leans In”

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Synopsis:

While taking Angel Bunny to the local vet, Dr. Fauna, to get a foot injury tended to, Fluttershy makes the discovery that her office is overrun with animals who have no place to go to get treated for ailments or to stay after they recover. Fluttershy takes this as the perfect opportunity for her to make a dream of hers become a reality and build an animal sanctuary. After talking to the Mane Six, they suggest a trio of ponies to help her with her vision: Wrangler, Hard Hat, and Dandy Grandeur. She explains her ideas to all of them of what she wants, but as the ideas are unconventional and things they aren’t used to, rather than try to enact them they all impose their own ideas instead thinking Fluttershy doesn’t know what she’s talking about and will like them better. She ends up with a sanctuary that’s absolutely nothing like what she wanted, and she dismisses all of them. After composing herself, Fluttershy tries again but insists that this time anyone helping her respect her knowledge of caring for animals and follow her concept exactly, and with the help of her friends and Big Daddy McColt, she builds the sanctuary exactly the way she wants it…and the animals too, for that matter. She ends up remarking on the importance of holding true to your convictions when you know your idea is right–the end result is well worth it.

Review:

Well, the run had to end sometime. Usually it holds out for a Spike-themed episode, though. We’d get good Fluttershy-themed episodes this season, but…I don’t feel this is one of them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not “bad”. There’s nothing that’s actually wrong with it and it does actually have a bit of a lesson in it. It’s just…not that good.

It has all the feeling of an episode that should be better. This is one episode that definitely shows how far Fluttershy has come…even though it kind of smacks the audience over the head with it a little bit by having the other members of the Mane Six actually call it out. Fluttershy is “assertive” yet polite from start to finish in this episode. The old Season One and Season Two Fluttershy would have probably easily caved to the pressure of the various ponies brought in to assist with her project, but in this one she stuck to her guns. Even though she nearly lost her temper once or twice, in the end she managed to stay very mannerly even when expressing her dislike and dismissing them.

The lesson it gave won’t be understood by everyone, but for people like me it hits close to home. As an amateur fanfic writer, and one who has been called in to help edit other writers’ work before…I’m ashamed to admit I have been in the same shoes as Wrangler, Hard Hat, and Dandy Grandeur before. I’ve gotten to the point where I stopped trying to help make a writer’s vision a reality and instead tried to impose my vision on them because I thought they’d like it better…because it’s what liked better. I have a feeling I’m not unique in that regard. The important thing to realize if trying to bring a concept to life, whether you’re in the position I was in or in the position Fluttershy was in, was that your vision is ultimately your vision and you have a right to see it through how you want. It might very well be that your idea isn’t the best in the world, but there’s a difference between calling in someone to help point out faults in your idea or calling in someone to help make it a reality, which was clearly what Fluttershy was doing. Like I said, this lesson doesn’t apply to everyone, similar to how “Canterlot Boutique”‘s lesson didn’t apply to everyone, but it’s still solid.

The problem is this episode was a simple story to tell. A bit too simple. It’s the first one this season that’s clearly padded. A lot of dialogue is nothing but “chatting” or middling around until we get to where the plot needs to advance. All four voice actors who provide the voices for all six members of the Mane Six are in this episode, but it seems the main purpose to their lines is to stretch things out. It’s not the worst problem in the world. In fact, it’s one endemic to Season One episodes. But it does drag the episode down a little.

It’s a bit too bad because, as this episode and “Fame and Misfortune” would address, the writers were clearly trying to get rid of Fluttershy’s “perpetually timid” nature this season and have her advance as a character. And this did take a step forward. Just not a terribly memorable one.

Fun Facts:

Angel Bunny needs “theme music” for when he practices parkour. Yet the fact he even practices parkour makes it clear why Fluttershy goes through so many bunny foot braces. 😛

As an interesting animation detail, giraffes have the same eye shape and style as ponies. Perhaps they’re “equine-enough” to where they’re semi-sentient, but still beneath goats. (Although since goats appear in the vet’s office…maybe not. :P) It’s interesting to note that, almost at random, after the giraffe shows up a stag leaps by in the background, appearing to be a totally normal stag. The thing with that is that IDW Comics actually made deer a sentient species like ponies and zebras…which is especially interesting as they paired with DHX Media this season.

The squirrels are eating cotton balls in Dr. Fauna’s office. This might be a nod to “Elf”. Smoky and his family (from “The Saddle Row Review”) also cameo.

The ducks “imprint” on Angel Bunny. 🙂

Oddly enough, Rainbow Dash actually gets emotional at Fluttershy’s description of the animal sanctuary.

More trivia for you…Fluttershy’s snake is named Rupert.

While some people might think Wrangler resembles a pony version of Indiana Jones, I think that’s simply a coincidence. The real pony who would resemble Indiana Jones would be in the season finale. 🙂

Wrangler’s cages weren’t that great. The bear busted right out again. 😛

The only place left in the vet for the fish to stay is a cup that barely fits it. Poor fish. He seems reluctant to leave later in the episode though.

To accent how “assertive” Fluttershy is in this episode, Pinkie Pie suggests they change her name to “Flutterbold”.

Big Daddy McColt returns from “The Hooffields and the McColts”. I thought it was a bit surprising, but…fitting, for the reasons Fluttershy points out.

Although Starlight Glimmer doesn’t appear in either “house meeting”, she does end up helping actually construct the sanctuary along with Big Macintosh and the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

Nicole Oliver, who normally only does Princess Celestia and Ms. Cheerilee, provides the voice of Dr. Fauna. Also, Kazumi Evans, whose most notable roles include Rarity’s singing voice, Adagio Dazzle, and Moondancer, did the voice of Wrangler.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5