Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MLP Episode 712: Discordant Harmony

The Magical Movie Night trilogy might be behind us, but now, I'm gonna get back into reviewing the remaining fourteen episodes of season seven so I can make that Emotions' Corner episode on the Top 10 Best of My Little Pony Season 7. (That, and my solo overview on the season as well.) So let's kick things off with Discordant Harmony, shall we?

In the Dance Magic review, I said it was possible to take a simple idea work as long as there was great humor, strong characterization, a good moral, and that the pacing was strong. This episode proves my point.

So much of the humor is derived from Discord; whenever he's literally speaking to himself, using his fingers to eat (and scolding one of them for burping), his initial indifference to fading away (it's like Bender from Futurama operating for a long time without beer), and the irony on how being normal isn't... well, normal for him.

Every other character is brilliant; the aforementioned Disclones (my personal name for them), Pinkie  giving Discord advice for his tea party (every episode he's played a major role in thus far has had Fluttershy featured), the old mare's confusion, and the clerks ponies questioning his friendship with Fluttershy.

But once again, Fluttershy is the standout character; for the last four years since Keep Calm and Flutter On, she knows Discord inside and out (please don't take this the wrong way), and her confusion over his Mr. Rogers-esque persona is great to see. And that leads me onto the themes.

Yeah, I've got some issues with the "be yourself" moral being overdone, but it makes sense for Discord to learn it. The same goes for the theme about differences. People will judge others for being different from their friends, but those who are different - like Discord - shouldn't let those words get to them. The fact that the clerks ponies questioned him and Fluttershy being friends further added to that message.

Final Thoughts
There's not a whole lot I can say in regards to the episode; it feels like the Discord take on Fluttershy Leans In and On Your Marks, as well as bits from Futurama's Hell is Other Robots. It's fun to watch, has some really good themes, and continues the development to Fluttershy and Discord (as long as you ignore Scare Master and What About Discord).

Rating: 9 out of 10

Monday, November 20, 2017

Equestria Girls: Mirror Magic

Two down, one to go. It's the Equestria Girls special that I declared as the worst of the three. Now we can finally find out if I still think that in the review proper, and hopefully quell a non-troversy on DeviantArt regarding a certain "fan". Without further delay or ado, here's Mirror Magic!

Surely I cannot be the only one who's sick of the bad guy redemption trope? Crusaders of the Lost Mark was the first to make it obvious that it was becoming overdone whilst season six and Legend of Everfree were more blatant about it, and it feels like the writers are using this cliche to "take the easy way out" of punishing the bad guy.

Not only that, this special is practically a half-baked attempt at getting Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer to interact. I'm sure most of you know this by now, but there's been a fandom rivalry between both characters ever since The Cutie Re-Mark, and it doesn't look like it'll end any time soon. Also, Sunset's presence in Equestria is completely contrived to set up the "plot".

The dynamic between the two characters is very anti-climactic; they barely display any personality whatsoever. Sunset constantly stresses over magical dangers and Starlight is enthusiastic about the human world - that's as far as it goes, and it says nothing about either of them. I'd rather they get into an argument as to whose motivations were worse; yes, it feels like fan pandering, but I'd rather have that than what we ended up with.

And another thing - how do they even know each other? This is a case where the timeframe doesn't do the special any favors; Legend of Everfree was a 22 minute story stretched into a 73 minute "film". This is a 70 minute story squashed into a 22 minute "special". Because of this, we don't get any depth to any of the characters or motivations and it all just comes off as tired, shallow, and uninspired.

Which brings me onto Starlight Glimmer. Her role in Mirror Magic is completely redundant. I was willing to defend her presence in A Royal Problem, but I can't say the same thing here! Yes, she snapped Juniper out of her rage, but Sunset and Sci-Twi could've done so as well! Heck, any of the Human Five could've asked her to let go of her anger and you'd have the same end result! Just like the previous two specials and Legend of Everfree, the whole plot feels like it was contrived to make Starlight the hero, just like To Where and Back Again.

Actually, that's not fair; at least the season six finale had the dignity to have proper pacing, a real reason for the heroes to worry, and it was 44 minutes long, tops! That being said, it still reeks of bad fan-fiction, but I digress.

And speaking of rehashed ideas...! Starlight's arrival is basically Princess Twilight's from the original Equestria Girls movie, except it's used for a one-off joke and never brought up again. At least in Rainbow Rocks, Twilight was still struggling to survive being in a human body - it makes you wonder how Sunset handled being in one, doesn't it?

Then there's the ending, which is basically the one from The Cutie Re-Mark, except this is more illogical and stupid. Starlight convinces Juniper to wish to make up for her mistakes and like the season five finale, forgiveness is handed to her on a silver platter.

What makes even stupider is that the Human Seven were never in any sort of danger. Given how much they have survived in four movies, are we expected to think that they could end up dying? No, of course not. It just comes off as artificial, and the tension is completely nonexistent. Oh, and Pinkie saying how forgiving the group is was just groan-worthy. It's true, and you don't need to lampshade the problems in your script when your viewers and critics can see for themselves! And attacking the adult fandom for having legitimate problems with certain episodes makes you look immature and petty - and yes, I will get to that soon enough...

Along with the villain redemption and the main cast being in "danger", the other overused cliche by EG standards is the antagonist having a monstrous form. Seriously, do they have to make all these designs this tacky? And they only do five minutes' worth with Juniper's monstrous form!

But the thing I hate most about this special is that the plot descriptions lied to us. They implied that Starlight and Sunset would both fight against Juniper together, but instead, it's just Starlight who saves the day because of course it is. Even I would've preferred to see both former antagonists attack the villain of the week, but it feels like false advertising to gain artificial interest.

I'd make suggestions for improvement, but instead, I direct your attention to the first film and Rainbow Rocks. They have a similar structure to Mirror Magic, even if things didn't happen in the same order. The difference is both films combined did it better, and with a longer runtime.

Final Thoughts
Overall, Mirror Magic gives us nothing new. At all. It's also a sign that Equestria Girls has reached stagnation. Writing for it should not be that difficult; just write it with the mindset of the characters being ponies, turn them into humans, and you're done. How difficult is it for the writers to understand that? It says a lot that fan-fiction writers can do the world more justice than the actual writers of the series.

It's also a special kind of sad that the spinoff actually had a lot of potential hiding behind it. I'm serious; if they tried tackling more mature themes with the high-school setting, handle it in a subtle manner, and written by competent writers, that'd be great!

As it stands, however, they just continue to use an idealized view on friendship by sugarcoating the harsh realities, and if the Summertime Shorts and the digital series Better Together (most ironic title ever!) are anything to go by, Equestria Girls has nothing left to offer. It is officially dead. It is the Hasbro equivalent to The Fairly OddParents where they constantly force in stupid gimmicks to try and manufacture audience interest.

I know there are some of you EG fans out there who are gonna be screaming "U SUK 4 HATIN DIS SERIEZ ABOUT SUNNY AND TWILY!!! I KILL U!!!" or something like that. Look, I get your frustrations to those who hate it because of course they can, but there are people out there who have legitimate concerns about its current state, and I've listed a few myself.

Bottom line, you can't automatically declare the person is negative for hating something you like, you can't go off on some mindless tirade as to how "wrong" they are, and you especially cannot say that a specific person ruined your life because they were doing they right thing by telling you off for your stupidity and recklessness! (I'm looking at you, Nichole Williams! Seriously, she got upset with Thomas fans on Twitter "bullying" her when they were calling her out for her idiotic beliefs.)

So... yeah. Mirror Magic is awful, plain and simple. It's got no reason to exist, and is very much the culmination of every bad MLP cliche jammed into 22 minutes. If you're a fan of EG, stick to the McCarthy films... and maybe add Friendship Games if you want a trilogy (it's up to you, really). But now? The charm has been killed, and it's time we moved on and left the spinoff in the dust with whatever dignity it may have left.

Rating: -10 out of 10

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Equestria Girls: Movie Magic

So, Rarity's starring role in Dance Magic was a complete snore-fest, but could Rainbow Dash do any better with Movie Magic?

If you've read how I felt about Juniper Montage back in June, then this review and the one for Mirror Magic won't shock anyone. However, I'm gonna take her out of the equation so I can discuss everything else, seeing both specials for what they are. And Movie Magic is another bland, paint-by-numbers special.

Not only that, this is the kind of plot you'd expect to see on Scooby-Doo. Hell, the whole thing is a Scooby-Doo rip off, right down to the talking dog - in this case, Spike. And that makes Sci-Twi, Pinkie, and Rarity Velma, Shaggy, and Daphne, respectively, and I figure Sunset and Rainbow Dash both take the role of Fred, meaning Applejack and Fluttershy are once again just there to complete the cast.

But honestly, this flops as a Scooby-Doo parody because... well, look at this part in the description for Mirror Magic, and notice what I've marked in bold:
...while Sunset Shimmer was away, a revenge‐seeking Juniper Montage finds a beautiful hand mirror enchanted with Equestrian magic...
In Movie Magic itself, they tried to make Chestnut Magnifico (you know, the actress playing Daring Do) the red herring, but the description of Mirror Magic very much spoils that it's Juniper Montage who's the real bad guy in the former. It becomes less a case of "who wants revenge", and more a case of "why she wants revenge".

On top of that, you can already tell Juniper is the bad guy the moment she's introduced. What makes it worse is that no one suspected her to be the true culprit. Sure, Sci-Twi did in the third act, but she and the others could've just asked Chestnut for her true intentions rather than investigate on their own. Yes, I know that "if they did this instead of that, you'd have no story", but I counter with how I feel about the ending to Legend of Everfree: if the solution is simple, then it makes your story feel pointless. (The same could apply for Mirror Magic, which I'll get to next time.)

Speaking of pointless, the Power Ponies bit is exactly that. It bears no impact on the plot, and could be cut altogether. It exists purely for fanservice.

One final point of contention is Canter Zoom scolding his niece; some say he's the true villain of the trilogy, but I don't agree. Like Sir Topham Hatt in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Canter Zoom is just doing his job, trying to get everything ready for the Harwick extension and the Daring Do movie, respectively. Not only that, Juniper brought this upon herself and refused to accept responsibility for her actions. She deserved to be punished for being petty.

However, this brings up a double standard - try and ruin your uncle's movie? You get banned from the studio. Capture those who exposed your crimes in a mirror, gain power and wreak havoc a the mall? That's perfectly okay as long as you have friends by your side! Seriously, this cannot be one rule for Movie Magic and another for Mirror Magic, especially since it makes Juniper worse than she is!

Final Thoughts
If you want this plot done properly, watch either an actual Scooby-Doo episode or MLP's Rarity Investigates!. Even if they fall into predictable territory, they at least have a certain degree of charm that Movie Magic wished it had. The lack of tension makes the EG special a waste of time, and it's a sloppy, sluggish build up to Mirror Magic.

Rating: -2 out of 10

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Equestria Girls: Dance Magic

Finally, after five months, I get to tackle the three Equestria Girls specials! These could be some of my most anticipated reviews to date, especially since I sounded off against one of them by quite a bit, and I'll let you figure out which one it is. Anyway, here's the first of them, Dance Magic!

I don't care for the Shadowbolts. At all. They had potential to create an anti-Mane Six in Friendship Games, but all they just did was stand there to look pretty and taunt the Wondercolts at every opportunity. Before the special came out, I was hoping they'd actually be given some depth, but here? They pretty much cared about nothing but winning... again. And their personalities come off as shallow... again. And they're reduced to four... wait, what?

Yeah, why Indigo Zap (you know, the loud one, the supposedly anti-Rainbow Dash) isn't there is because, according to Ishi Rudell and Gillian Berrow, she was on vacation. It's fine and all, but why couldn't they have at least given an acknowledgement to her absence in the actual special? I know it wouldn't affect the story that much, but still.

Back to the remaining Shadowbolts; they basically steal Rarity's idea for a music video and when they're stuck on what to do for a song, you're supposed to root for them, but I don't. Why? Because they needed the money for their spring dance on a yacht. Never mind how ludicrous their goals are, but stealing someone else's idea out of desperation is not a sympathetic reason; it makes you look petty!

You'll notice I haven't talked about the story yet. My biggest problem with it is that it's incredibly thin and tries to rely on its characters to pull through. However, it doesn't work since the characters featured barely display any personality beyond a few basic traits.

In fairness to Rarity, she has a more nuanced personality than the one Legend of Everfree gave her, where she constantly preaches fashion to the point it's become her sole obsession, lacking any depth her pony counterpart has. Fans complain about Daisy being an idiot in The Way She Does It, but least there, the railcar actually had a nuanced personality, and the themes were a lot stronger and had a hint of subtlety to them.

But I digress; the rest of the Human Seven just feel really bland. Applejack likes baking, Rainbow Dash likes action, Pinkie Pie is... Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy, Sunset, and Spike just stand there and barely do a thing. The only other character with some degree of depth is Sci-Twi, and even then, her character is still awful after the events of Legend of Everfree.

Ah yes, speaking of which, if you're not aware, Dance Magic was supposed to take place before Everfree - why do you think the song in the former was on the Friendship Games soundtrack? The special was produced prior to the film and was meant to be about the girls raising funds to attend Camp Everfree, but it was held back and some dialogue was edited to take place after the film.

Which brings me onto the EG timeline - it is incredibly confused as to when everything is. Dance Magic seems to take place in the spring, and yet Everfree is implied to take place in the summer. This has been an issue in productions prior, but it was never this obvious!

Dance Magic's ending is just disappointing, really. Sure, the song is nice, but it could've been a music video on its own. Sure, the moral is good, but the buildup to it is rather flimsy and it comes out of nowhere, only to be hammered in during the third act. Sure, all the technicals - voice acting, music, and animation (bar some goofs) - are great, but they're all standards by now, not a freak accident.

Final Thoughts
It's easy to make a simple idea work. You need to give that premise some good humor, strong characterization, a well-paced story, and a message being based around it. With a bare-boned plot, the characters not feeling relatable, an out-of-nowhere whilst fine message, and some rehashed gags, I can safely say that I don't like Dance Magic. I appreciate that it tried being a sequel to Friendship Games, but it came way too late and feels out of place this far in. It just comes off as pointless.

Honestly, you're better off watching Rarity Takes Manehattan, which has a similar premise, and is far more interesting on every level. Plus, it has a moral which actually connects to the main plot.

Rating: 0 out of 10

Friday, November 17, 2017

MLP Episode 711: Not Asking for Trouble

Okay, this was an episode I was dreading even before it came out. I never liked the episode Party Pooped and that was down to how the yaks - especially their pathetic excuse for a leader, Rutherford - acted in that particular episode. But could Not Asking for Trouble prove my fears wrong?

Oh boy... where do I begin?

For a start, the plot was painfully sluggish. They try adding humor, but the jokes are extremely forced and... actually, it's the same joke they recycle because they thought it would be funny if they used it over and over again by doing it differently each time. It doesn't make an episode funny, it makes it tedious to sit through. Heck, even the animation feels a bit lazy there.

And like Party Pooped, Rutherford is an incompetent ruler who can't even build a hut to save his hair. Seriously, did he not think that many young yaks could eventually die of hypothermia and starvation? And given who we have in the White House, that feels frighteningly accurate.

Another problem is a bit on the minor side, but I'll mention it anyway; why did Pinkie not think about going to the Crystal Empire than all the way back to Ponyville since, you know, it's closer to Yakyakistan than Ponyville? I know it has no affect on the plot, but it's just another example of continuity being cherry-picked.

But the episode's biggest downfall is the moral. Pinkie insists that the yaks should ask for help, which is what the episode seemed to take until the ending where... well, I don't know! It comes off as a stupid joke and it sends mixed messages to an impressionable audience!

Final Thoughts
I apologize if the review is incredibly short, but the episode was so boring it very much gave me little to talk about. It felt like there was no heart put into the story whatsoever and that they relied on humor as a crutch. At least with All Bottled Up, I can actually see where the episode was going with its message, but Not Asking for Trouble? I really don't know, nor do I care. It's a bad episode not worth watching again.

Rating: 1 out of 10

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MLP Episode 710: A Royal Problem

After seven years, we're finally getting a Celestia and Luna episode! Of course, some fans weren't too happy that it was also a Starlight Glimmer episode; could A Royal Problem be anything but, you know, a problem?

I'm gonna come out and say this; A Royal Problem might possibly be my most favorite episode. Not just my favorite of season seven, not just my favorite episode of the post-Kingdom era, but possibly my favorite episode of the series, hooves down. There's a lot I could say about this episode, but for now, I want to talk about the episode itself. Everything surrounding it will be an individual review in itself, but I will refer to some of it in the episode review.

First off, there's Starlight's role. It's perhaps her best overall, but given how the majority of her roles in season six were bad, that's not saying much. Here, she's perhaps one of the few characters who could've filled in this role. If it was Twilight, her character would backpedal from Lesson Zero. If it was Rarity, it would feel extremely off-putting. If it were Spike or any of the Remane Four... it would feel pretty stupid.

Another point of discussion is Celestia and Luna; the only times we ever saw them being sisterly toward one another was the ending of Elements of Harmony (that is, the second part of Friendship is Magic) and a small one-off gag in Slice of Life. Never had there been a full episode about that aspect of their relationship... until now.

And they pull it off fantastically. One could argue that they should've resolved their fight by now, but look at the prologue in the series premiere; Luna was envious that her moon was overshadowed by Celestia's sun - ponies played at day and slept at night. Luna wanted appreciation, but Celestia tried reasoning with her and had no choice but to banish her to the moon for a millennia.

The conflict in the present day feels more nuanced; Luna thinks that Celestia's duties are easier than her own and vice-versa. Like I mentioned earlier, adding Starlight to the conflict was a great move. Yes, her actions could be seen as impulsive, but if an argument is about to get bad, you might have no choice but to interfere before it gets worse.

Not only that, both sisters end up realizing on their own that the other's duties were not as simple as they initially believed. It feels a lot like Freaky Friday, where a mother and daughter (or two sisters, in this case) had a fight and were forced to live each others' lives until the end, when they understand that they should accept each other for who they are, not who one wants the other to be. The themes alone in this episode are brilliant; I could go on about them all day!

Oh, and you can't review the episode without talking about Daybreaker. Seriously, is this evil form of Celestia a badass or what? She is the day equivalent of Nightmare Moon, only the insanity levels are cranked up to eleven... times ten. Bit of a shame that she may never appear again, but it's still a great addition to an already great episode.

Final Thoughts
It's a borderline miracle; after To Where and Back Again, I didn't think there could be a good Starlight Glimmer episode, but then A Royal Problem came around and, ironically in a positive way, turned out to be no problem at all! I'm very happy this episode turned out the way it did, especially from the pen of Joanna and Kristine, and especially after the failure known as Legend of Everfree.

I will admit the review is a bit short, but there is so much positive I could say about the episode before it gets stale. Even if you're not the biggest fan of Starlight, you might still like it for Celestia and Luna. Give it a shot and see for yourself!

Rating: 10 out of 10

Thursday, November 9, 2017

MLP Episode 709: Honest Apple

Well... last post went down better than I initially anticipated! But now, let's get back to the actual show and share my personal feelings on Honest Apple. Is it as bad as some people say it is?

Well, it would be safe to say that this episode has an interesting reception in regards to Applejack's behavior. Sure, she's rather condescending when it comes to the young designers' fashion, but it actually works here. It's not the most ideal, especially since Rarity ought to know that fashion isn't Applejack's thing, but since the latter represents the Element of Honesty, it actually makes sense that the former would ask her to be a judge.

Speaking of which, I really liked the theme displayed here. Applejack believed she was being honest about what she thought, but she didn't realize she was also hurting their feelings. Did she cross a line? It depends on who you ask...

Which leads me onto the scene with Strawberry Sunrise. There's this trope called Laser-Guided Karma. Rarity brought Applejack to see Strawberry, who claimed she didn't like apples, despite Applejack arguing the positives about them, but Strawberry shoots her opinion down in flames, making Applejack realize that she went too far with her honesty and ended up doing what she could to apologize for her behavior.

The pacing is quite possibly the strongest aspect of the episode. The scene with the Apple siblings, for one, was useful in helping Applejack make the decision to judge alongside Photo Finish, Hoity Toity, and Rarity. Not only that, it even doubles as a sisterly moment between Applejack and Apple Bloom. That was great!

The emotions are also handled brilliantly; you feel sorry for Rarity when all of her hard work ends up in smoke, and you feel disappointed in Applejack for taking her opinions too far. And this may be where it affects my opinion, but I can relate to this episode very well. I, like Applejack, can be rather stubborn and abrasive when it comes to sharing my views, and I might've made some people mad over it without intending to. But of course, I know in the end where I should draw the line.

And speaking of endings, I didn't expect to see Rarity make an awful dress - one that's green, no doubt. It even showed how the lesson stuck with Applejack; she knows it's awful, and yet Rarity is the first to admit it is. Just goes to show how you can sometimes laugh at your own flaws.

Oh, and you can't review this episode without mentioning Rarity playing the guitar like crazy; so much so that it even shocks Pinkie Pie.

My only real issue with the episode is that the Applejack/Rarity dynamic feels extremely overused. In the last few seasons, they've had one episode where they're the lead characters - Applejack's "Day" Off, Made in Manhattan, and Simple Ways all featured them together. It's getting pretty old by this point, and we got the message that they're different ponies. We've seen them paired up with different characters before - Rarity with Rainbow Dash in Rarity Investigates! and Applejack with Fluttershy in Viva Las Pegasus, to name but a few.

Final Thoughts
Rewatching the episode and looking at other peoples' views on it, I think it's fair to say there is an interesting thread about it. I was going to give it a 7, but thinking about it more, I've decided to raise my score. It may not be in my Top 5 for season seven, but I still believe it to be in the Top 10 at least because of how much I can relate to it, especially in regards to how I feel about a certain spinoff that's very much dead.

That being said, I hope this is the last episode where Applejack and Rarity co-star. It would be a great shame if future episodes (as well as both characters) got hated simply because of an overused dynamic.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Monday, November 6, 2017

Flash and Sunset

Okay, so I was going to tackle Honest Apple following Hard to Say Anything, but the latter made me remember that I had a bit of unfinished business regarding a certain "shipping". Now I must point out from the get go that in no way am I saying why you hate this shipping; this is why I personally hate it. So here goes.

(Yes, I put the word dynamic in quotation marks; I'll get to that.)

Out of all the MLP shippings in the fandom, the one I absolutely loathe the most involves Flash Sentry and Sunset Shimmer (though Sci-Twi and Timber Spruce is a close second). The first movie stated that he was dating her before they broke up, a few weeks before the main events of the first movie. Right off the bat, there is a problem; it's only stated once and has no tie-in either with Flash's small role or Sunset's villainous ambitions. Hell, Twilight doesn't even bring her up when she and Flash are interacting, and the scene when he clears her name would've been a great opportunity to show what their relationship, but... nope.

The only hint of their past that we got in the next two films was that in Rainbow Rocks, Sunset said she used Flash just to gain popularity. Fair enough, except again, it's never brought up at any point after it's said, it's just... there. They don't even bother bringing it up at any point during Friendship Games! I know that there were more important matters at hand, but at least an acknowledgement would've been fine!

And then we come to Legend of Everfree. A lot of people are saying this is one of the better scenes of the film, but I honestly can't see it. If anything, it's the worst scene of the worst film in existence, and you better believe why that is.

First, Flash tries and fails connecting with Sci-Twi. We know, but he doesn't (at first), that they're different Twilights, and yet Sunset doesn't even bother explaining that to him! Even if she looked like she was helping him get over Princess Twilight, she comes off as extremely condescending and rude. And before you comment, just because it doesn't look like that, it doesn't mean it isn't plain as day! We were given no indication that she told Princess Twilight about how Flash feels about her, and it implies that she doesn't care, especially when she had no problem with them being together two movies ago!

Secondly, there's their dynamic. Or lack thereof. Neither Flash nor Sunset display any character in their second scene and they come off as incredibly bland. Not only that, all they even talked about was Twilight. Flash gives Sunset compliments, but that's literally as far as it went, and it's never brought up again for the ending. Hell, she just half-heatedly agrees to be friends again and just leaves him hanging there, not giving a second thought for his feelings! You see the problem with their dynamic? It's as shallow as a puddle on the ground.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I said that Sunset seemingly doesn't care for Flash's crush on Princess Twilight/Sci-Twi (and he and Sci-Twi seemed to have interacted on a semi-regular basis), and yet she's perfectly okay with Sci-Twi being with Timber, a person she's only known for a few days, and who practically behaved and acted irresponsibly in regards to his sister's actions?! I'm sorry, but if you feel your ex-lover is less worthy for your best friend than a person he or she has only just met, then your priorities are clearly skewed, especially when Sunset was suspicious of Timber to begin with!

Which leads me onto the unfortunate implications; would Flash seriously think about restarting a relationship with Sunset after she (unintentionally, I'll admit) behaved like a jerk to him? What if she decided to return to Equestria (yes, I know she lives in the human world, but she's an Equestrian native, much like Princess Twilight, which is laughable since she told Flash to get over her) for good? This could potentially lead to Flash going down a dark path, and honestly? I wouldn't blame him! As much as I'm a Sunset fanboy, I legitimately wanted to slap her for being so cruel like that.

That's another bullet point to the current problems with Equestria Girls; everything feels like it's been poorly planned and instead pulled out the backside. But do I blame Joanna and Kristine for how poorly written Flash and Sunset's "dynamic" was? No. I feel much of it, shockingly, goes to Meghan for not giving it much thought in the first two movies. You have 70 minutes to work with, so there's no excuse for not giving that development. Say what you want about Starlight Glimmer's roles during season seven, but at least right now, the writers have given her a bit of charisma (unless you consider Mirror Magic), and it almost feels... like she actually belongs.

But Flash and Sunset? Their past relationship has no effect on the series at all; if they were going to make it relevant, they should've outlined how an Equestria Girls trilogy would go before they wrote one line for the first movie. As it stands, it feels like an afterthought.

Another unfortunate implication is what would happen if they actually did get back together. Think about it; Sunset dated Flash back when she was a school bully. The way I see it, Flash is a representation of the old Sunset. If she even thought about dating him again, it would actually end up making things worse for both of them (as if her carelessness in Everfree didn't do so already), and would lead to depression at best and (potentially) suicide at worst!

In layman's terms, it's a lose-lose situation, and even more so from the fandom; Sunset will get flack from the TwiSentry fans (again, as if her actions in Everfree wasn't enough), and Flash will get flack from the Sunlight (that is, Twilight and Sunset, either Twilight doesn't matter) fans as well as those who ship themselves with Sunset. No matter which way you look at it, and regardless of all the fan art and fan fiction (those that occur post-Everfree, at least) you make...

They cannot get back together again. The relationship is dead.

Without proper planning or pacing to it, as well as the unfortunate implications surrounding it, this is why Flash and Sunset are the worst shipping in the MLP fandom. They can try and give Flash as much character as they like in the digital series, but it will mean nothing to me if the shorts are less than five minutes in length, are as appealing as wheat flakes, and that it took four years to try and get him to that point.

Now then; let's move on and look to the future than constantly harking on about a "relationship" that should stay well and truly buried.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

MLP Episode 708: Hard to Say Anything

I'll be completely honest here; I was dreading this episode before it aired, and the fact that Legend of Everfree had similar themes didn't really improve my judgement. But could Hard to Say Anything prove me wrong, and most importantly, be better than Everfree?

Well, there's quite a lot of similarities between the episode and movie, so I'll get those out of the way first before talking about the episode proper.

First of all, Big Macintosh actually has a well-defined character than just being a one-dimensional crybaby. Not only that, he is almost willing to have the Crusaders help him out, even if their methods are ridiculously over the top, and his "No love potions!" line is absolutely hilarious; it seems he still hasn't gotten over the incident with Cheerilee...!

Secondly, his crush on Sugar Belle seemingly doesn't come from nowhere. You might disagree, but think about her presence in Celestial Advice. Perhaps she and Big Mac ran into each other at some point after Starlight's party and then he showed her around Sweet Apple Acres leading to... well, I'll let you figure out the rest for yourselves. Timber just gives Sci-Twi the "I want you" look the moment they meet... because of course he does.

Which leads me onto Feather Bangs. No, I don't care for the similarities to a certain musician that shall remain nameless. To keep it short, he's a better Timber than Timber himself, and perhaps it's no irony that Vincent Tong voices him. Yes, he comes off as a horse's ass (ha!), but the ending showed genuine growth for his character, unlike the Flash and Sunset "subplot" that comes off as a pointless distraction.

The fourth comparison is the pacing; Hard to Say Anything has a simple plot that worked surprisingly well within 22 minutes. Meanwhile, Legend of Everfree, with a longer run time of 73 minutes, had a multitude of plots that either A) led to nothing, B) come out of nowhere, C) send toxic messages to an impressionable audience, or D) all of the above. (In case you hadn't noticed, the answer to the Flash and Sunset "subplot" is D.) Because of the ten or so subplots taking place at once in Everfree, they're all thrown into a blender to the point you don't know what the main plot is supposed to be. Also, the cold open to Hard to Say Anything is a very good set up to the main conflict.

Lastly, there's the themes. Those in Everfree were either non-existent or send toxic messages. Meanwhile, Hard to Say Anything showed that there was a difference between fantasy and reality, which is something a lot of people - kids especially - can relate to.

That being said, it does reveal a huge problem with the Equestria Girls series as of late; the themes it displays are far too idealistic, cuddly, and just come off as shallow. Case in point, what's ironically titled Good Vibes. I get the message it wants to show, but it's made obvious within the first thirty seconds with its lyrics and the over-reliance of "good deeds" being done. On top of that, it's way too broad and may come off as slightly toxic. Doing good deeds for someone doesn't always mean you'll be rewarded; there's this theory called reward and punishment, something that the writers will gleefully ignore and would rather sugarcoat their "themes".

Oh, and did I mention that the "relationship" between Flash and Sunset needs to die a sad, pitiful, lonely death?

Back to the episode proper, and what else does it do on its own merits? Well, there's the relationship between Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh continuing the development from Brotherhooves Social. It's really nice to see them bond after all this time, and his expressions are funny. Well, except for when he tries to kiss Sugar Belle whilst she's sleeping. Not so funny.

Which brings me, awkwardly, to the song. It starts off okay, but then it starts to go over the top bad. That said, it may be what they were going for, and it gets the message across not just to Big Mac, but the Crusaders as well that they screwed up, so it wasn't entirely pointless.

And now, I get to what I wanted to talk about most in regards to the episode (and the show in general, in fact) - romance. Like bad guy redemptions, writing for romance in MLP is a two-edged sword; yes, it's a nice idea to try and add a few subtle mature themes (or at least, as subtle as you can get) in the show, but you have to consider that there are fans out there who aren't a fan of romance being in the show. There's a reason the show is called Friendship is Magic.

Also, if you do end up creating a pairing that fans were not hoping for - especially if it involves a new character - that may lead to, at worst, the character getting crap piled on them by the fans or, at best, outright shipping wars. Why do you think Flash became an outright butt monkey from Friendship Games onward, especially when he did nothing wrong, of his own volition?

Much as I'm a FlutterMac shipper, I'll say this outright when it comes to him being with either Cheerilee or (as of this episode) Sugar Belle. I, frankly, don't care about this whiny "NOT WHAT I WANTED" crap. And I know some of you out there are gonna comment that, as a TwiSentry defender, I'm being hypocritical in my statements, so let me explain.

When Twilight (that is, Princess Twilight, not that whiny bespectacled brat) first runs into Flash, he simply helps her up and moves on to whatever he was planning; they just interact like strangers and that's very much it. Later, she bumps into him again at the cafe, and he shrugs it off like it's no big deal, but it's when Twilight gets framed for wrecking the gymnasium that he proves himself worthy of being her date by proving she's innocent. (Try topping that, you green-haired loser! What have you done to prove yourself worthy of "your" Twilight?)

And then in the next film, Flash is wondering about Twilight's presence, implying that his feelings for her have grown a little more and vice-verse. My point here is that even though the romance between Princess Twilight and Flash is obvious, it's handled with subtlety and it's just an innocent crush. Between Sci-Twi and Timber, meanwhile, there was no subtlety or innocence; it just happened for no reason other than to serve as a distraction from their respective problems.

On top of that, Timber could've ended up in jail for his reckless behavior. Think about it; he knew what Gloriosa was doing was stupid, and yet he chose to sweep it under the rug whenever Sci-Twi is around him (she even does the same with the issue with Midnight Sparkle). Seriously, he's supposed to be a camp counselor, and hitting on a student younger than him makes him look extremely irresponsible. As well as that, Gloriosa could've also ended up being in jail for endangering the students.

Digression aside, the bottom line is, I'm not that bothered about Big Mac and Sugar Belle being together. Like Flash and Twilight, they started off having an innocent crush on each other (more so from his end, but still), but unlike Flash with either Twilight (sadly), they actually end up in a relationship, leaving Feather Bangs the third wheel, but I'm sure he'll find his special somepony one day.

Oh, and that Sci-Twi finally realizes how shallow Timber is...

Final Thoughts
Well, that was quite a lot to say about this episode and the things surrounding it...! Despite a couple of issues I have, I still enjoyed it, and would gladly take this over Legend of Everfree any day of the week. That being said, it does expose a genuine problem with how the actual show handles romance, so this is my advice to the writers - leave the romance to the fandom.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Friday, November 3, 2017

MLP Episode 707: Parental Glideance

Now this is one of those episodes inspired by headcanons I've seen around the internet; Rainbow Dash's parents. Sadly, they were not what many were wondering, let's what can Parental Glideance provide.

I'm a bit conflicted on this one. There's things I liked about it and things that I didn't.

For one thing, I liked Scootaloo's role in this one. Her reaction to seeing Rainbow Dash's parents for the first time was equally adorable and hilarious. Given that she's never met them before, can you blame her? Plus, their reactions to her squealing loudly (as well as the bombshell that their daughter is a Wonderbolt) are priceless.

Windy Whistles and Bow Hothoof (must've been an unfortunate foalhood for him!) are... alright, I suppose. I can see where Josh Hamilton is going with them; many of us have parents which love us to the point we find it embarrassing. Or, if you're a parent, you have a child who loves you to death. And honestly, I can relate to both scenarios.

That being said, I would never go so far as to keep shoving my support down their throats to the point it becomes childish. And that's their biggest problem; they're way too obsessive with their daughter and her achievements (especially in the second act), right down to memorabilia when it comes to Rainbow Dash's highlights.

And that brings me to the themes, which feel... kind of awkward. Rainbow Dash realized she took her parents' support for granted. Fair enough. And yet her parents don't apologize for embarrassing her? I don't know if it's actually happening or just my interpretation, but it feels confused as to who I'm supposed to root for. I mean, I know who I want to root for, but the narrative of the episode doesn't make it clear.

If there was an overall positive to the whole scenario, at least the Wonderbolts aren't as malicious as they were in Newbie Dash. Compared to how "in your face" it was toward Rainbow Dash, their teasing is a lot more subtle this time around.

Which leads me onto the biggest problem with the episode; continuity. Scootaloo recounts the events of Wonderbolts Academy, Rarity Investigates!, and the aforementioned Newbie Dash, yet Testing Testing 1, 2, 3 is skipped over... because reasons. But that isn't the problem. No, the real issue is the flashback.

Think about it; Spitfire, Fleetfoot and Soarin are already in the Wonderbolts when Rainbow Dash joins, yet in the flashback, they appear to be roughly the same age. Not only that, Lightning Dust and Rainbow Dash met in Wonderbolts Academy, yet this episode implies they knew each other before said episode. Couldn't you have replaced them with other Pegasi as foals like, say, Blossomforth, Thunderlane, and maybe Flash Sentry? I know this doesn't affect the story that much, but it's still incredibly baffling.

Final Thoughts
A step backward from the last two episodes. Not to say that Parental Glideance is without merit; I mean, it has a good idea, and Rainbow Dash learns something at the end (though she should learn she isn't the best at everything, but I digress), but the end result comes off as weird at best. All that said, the writers need to stop putting Rainbow Dash through the wringer when she gets a starring role; surely she deserves better?

Rating: 6 out of 10

Sunday, October 29, 2017

MLP Episode 706: Forever Filly

So far, we got two amazing episodes, a premiere that borders on okay, and a decent Maud Pie episode. But how will Forever Filly stack up?

When was the last time Rarity and Sweetie Belle had an episode together? Season four? (Yes, they were seen together during seasons five and six, but they weren't the main focus.) If that's the case, then this feels a lot more special than Maud Pie appearances, where she seems to show up at least once a season.

Rarity and Sweetie Belle have the best of the Mane Six/Crusader dynamics. Applejack and Apple Bloom very much interact on a near daily basis under the same roof, and Scootaloo basically feels a miniaturized Rainbow Dash who can't fly... only less jerkish. Rarity and Sweetie Belle, on the other hoof, have differing personalities, and the latter lives with their parents and often visits the former.

Here, both sisters are relatable and sympathetic; you feel for Sweetie Belle when she doesn't want to hurt her big sister's feelings, and you feel for Rarity when she wants to please her little sister but forgets how much she's grown in the past few seasons.

The theme is further strengthened by the subplot with Zipporwhill (that Latin-accented filly from Filli Vanilli) and her dog Ripley; she wonders why he won't play with the toys he did as a puppy. He's grown up, as did his owner, and just doesn't care for the toys anymore. When a stick stuck in Rarity's mane gets thrown to the ground, suddenly he gains interest in it and wants to play fetch.

It's not just the sisters, Zipporwhill and Ripley; every character in the episode is brilliant, even those who appear for a few gags like the stallion with the afro manecut and the pony holding a heart-shaped balloon. Those little moments were great! Also, is it just me, or does Chip Cutter feel reminiscent of people with autism?

But the thing I love most about this episode is how much the Crusaders have grown in the last seven years. Not just in the series itself, but their voice actors have also grown with them. I mean, compare this to Call of the Cutie in season one; you can hear how much Michelle, Madeleine and Claire have grown in the last six years.

And of course, the ending is one of the show's sweetest; even if Rarity and Sweetie Belle have grown up, there's still a little filly within them, which is another fantastic theme.

Final Thoughts
There were really no problems with the episode at all; it was beautiful and heartwarming from beginning to end, and it presents some of the most mature themes in a kids' show. I could say more, but there's so much you can praise an episode before it becomes old.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Saturday, October 28, 2017

MLP Episode 705: Fluttershy Leans In

Okay, I'm sorry this wasn't posted earlier; mostly, my time was spent on school work and the review for Journey Beyond Sodor, which is now out on YouTube. Now that I've got it done, let's go back into MLP season seven, resuming with Fluttershy Leans In.

As much as I hated season six of MLP, even I will admit there are some good things about it. The best part about it was, in my opinion, Fluttershy. Following Scare Master, I felt that she was going to backpedal in terms of development like Percy now has done with The Great Race and especially Three Steam Engines Gruff. It's also frustrating when you consider it was in the same season as The Cutie Map. Fortunately, however, Flutter Brutter brought Fluttershy back to form, and it carried over onto Buckball Season, Viva Las Pegasus, and now, this episode.

I'm gonna say it right now; the themes displayed here are amongst the best of the entire of the show. One of them involving Wrangler, Hard Hat and Dandy Grandeur is the theme of communication. Their ideas contrasted sharply with Fluttershy's, and of course, they thought they knew better when it came to animals' needs, but didn't bother listening to Fluttershy.

That being said, I feel there was a bit of missed opportunity for them to stay around and see the animals try out their creations. However, it backfires in their faces and then they realize the error of their ways and apologize, promising to listen to her ideas this time. As it is though, Big Daddy McColt's role was fine.

The other big theme of the episode is one I can personally relate to; don't give up if you don't succeed first time around. I think that's a theme anybody can relate to. After the first attempt failed, Fluttershy tried again with Big Daddy McColt - someone who also understood animals' needs - and succeeded.

Now some of you may be thinking the solution was way too simple and... I partially agree. But I guess it's possible Big Daddy McColt didn't cross Fluttershy's mind the first time around and contacted him when coming up with ideas. There's also a more subtle message within the episode; it's not the destination, it's the journey that really counts.

Which brings me onto Fluttershy herself. I don't think the episode would've been as strong if it took place during the earlier seasons, especially if they contrasted very sharply against Dragonshy and Hurricane Fluttershy. So really, I feel this episode was perfectly timed within the show. Oh, and Rupert the snake butler deserves his own mention.

Final Thoughts
It's very easy to dismiss this episode; the story isn't a whole lot to write home about, but the themes are amongst the best of the show, and Fluttershy's character is at her peak that continues in this season alone, so I feel this episode deserves more love. Well done, Gillian Berrow, for a fantastic Fluttershy episode.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Saturday, October 14, 2017

MLP Episode 704: Rock Solid Friendship

Another episode, another review. Here are my thoughts on Rock Solid Friendship.

Can I be the first to say that Maud Pie-centric episodes are feeling a bit overused by now? This isn't necessarily me hating Maud as a character, but rather, I'm noticing a trend since her debut episode in season four in which she's had at least one starring role. She's made three appearances in season five (speaking in Make New Friends But Keep Discord and Hearthbreakers, and non-speaking in the first part of The Cutie Re-Mark) as well as season six's The Gift of the Maud Pie and in season seven? It's this episode.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this episode is bad because it feels like one character is being overused, but my main issue with Maud is that Pinkie has two other sisters which are barely given any time or thought for character development. I mean, can't we have an episode where they react to a new environment like Ponyville with Pinkie guiding them around? Would make for an interesting story, really.

As for the episode the way it is? Generally, I think it's good, but not quite as good as some people thought it was when it first came out. For one thing, the humor is on the hit or miss spectrum. The graduation ceremony in the cold open is one of the funniest in the show, and the bad timing with the door joke and Starlight was also chuckle-worthy.

However, Pinkie was rather obnoxious, perhaps more so than Filli Vanilli. There is a line between helping your friends and acting like an idiot, and she breaches it altogether. Thinking Tank and Lyra were rocks, and then straight up stalking her sister and friend? That cannot be defended, and she doesn't suffer as a consequence. Maybe if she got injured in the Ghastly Gorge when she and Maud were running from the giant eel, I could probably forgive Pinkie's behavior beforehand, but the ending did imply the message didn't penetrate hard enough. Sure, she realized how annoying she was, but still.

And then there's Starlight. I like seeing her interact with Maud despite the pink elep... pony in the room, and the lesson Maud taught Starlight was actually a very good one; it's what's inside that's really important. The flashback was also quite nice, but it does bring up another problem - continuity.

You see, My Little Pony usually has a strong continuity, and the writers (as well as the script editors) try to keep things consistent. But in this episode, Pinkie acts like she did from A Friend in Deed, Luna Eclipsed, and the aforementioned Filli Vanilli. That's a prime example of cherry picking your continuity, a problem which also plagues Journey Beyond Sodor as well as Thomas' 21st season (in the case of the latter, it's visual continuity which throws me off). You'd think Pinkie would've learned from those episodes but... nope. They made her an idiot because they thought it'd be funny.

That being said, I think the episode's moral was very strong, even if the buildup was a little frustrating. Not everybody thinks the same way. And considering the drama on Twitter from so-called Thomas "fans" over Big World! Big Adventures! (both movie and season 22), as well as a few select liberals myself, I think that's something we should all take seriously.

Final Thoughts
I've got problems with Pinkie's IQ in this episode, but I don't want to be too harsh since it was so early in the season, even if All Bottled Up ended up with a 3/10. Rock Solid Friendship, however, does provide a very strong lesson many should take seriously, the moments with Starlight and Maud were nice to see, and the continuity nods (despite being cherry picked at stupid moments) are also pretty good. I think that's enough to rank this episode a good one. Not one of the greatest, but still good.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Saturday, October 7, 2017

MLP Episode 703: A Flurry of Emotions

So, my reviews for the season premiere episodes actually went down pretty well. There's still many more episodes to cover, so let's continue with A Flurry of Emotions.

In season six, I felt that Flurry Heart had a lot of untapped potential, but the episodes she appeared in were either boring or frustrating to sit through. The fact that she was in the middle of a pointless story arc revolving around Starlight didn't really do the baby much favors. This episode, I thought, did do Flurry justice.

I feel much of it lies down to her bond with Twilight and how the latter is written; she wants to spend time with her niece, but at the same time, she's got a schedule to stick to, but ends up getting distracted. Good thing she's got Spike to help keep her check.

Shining Armor and Cadance's subplot doesn't have much screentime, but I'm not bothered. The past incidents they mentioned with Flurry's cheekiness, I think, could be great stories on their own, as well as adorable. Actually, that word is perhaps the best to describe this episode, along with heartwarming, especially when Shining and Cadance were close to crying thinking about their daughter.

All that said, I only have two complaints. For one, Spearhead doesn't have much depth apart from knowing Shining and Cadance when they were younger. Sure, he's an artist in his own right, but that's pretty much it, really.

The second one is a problem which has been bugging me since The Crystalling - Equestrian babies are inconsistent. What I mean is that the designs of Pound and Pumpkin Cake clash against Flurry's. Flurry has eyes like the older foals and adult ponies, but the Cake twins simply have colored irises with white shine and no eye white. I know animation doesn't affect the story, but can't we have visual consistency with the younger ponies? This episode (as well as Once Upon a Zeppelin) made that issue obvious.

Final Thoughts
Other than my complaint with the designs of baby ponies (it doesn't affect how I feel about the episode, but it was worth noting), there's not a whole lot I can say about this episode. Sammie and Whitney did an excellent job for their first script, and I think they have potential for MLP. If they were this good here, then I wonder what their writing is like on The Loud House.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Monday, October 2, 2017

MLP Episode 702: All Bottled Up

So Celestial Advice actually went down very well; heck, better than I thought it'd be! But how does its sister episode, All Bottled Up, stack up?

Honestly? Not that well. For me, the majority of the problems lie with Trixie. I don't like her at all; she constantly brags about how "great and powerful" she is, when she's simply just a real pain in the ass. And the Trixie we see in this episode practically backpedaled in terms of development from season six (much as I don't like it all that much) and reverted to being a one-note annoyance that it makes you wonder why Starlight puts up with her in the first place.

Speaking of whom, yes, I do actually relate to her in this episode. I constantly put up with stupid people online, and with the Thomas fandom being as toxic as it is right now, I certainly relate to Starlight more than I initially realized. However, her friendship with Trixie made me realize the problem with her backstory; Sunburst barely has any character to speak of, and he has little to no effect on Starlight as a character. It's further emphasized by the fact that Starlight seems to see Trixie, a pony she's met some months ago (in universe, at least), to be her best friend over a character who barely had substance from the get go that she's known for years.

I mean, if you got rid of Sunburst altogether and that Starlight became resentful that she didn't get her cutie mark in her youth (and ponies constantly bullied her for it) and when she eventually got hers and hated herself for getting it so late, perhaps her motivations in season five would've made sense to a degree. Sure, you'd still have problems, but at least she wouldn't have suffered during season six.

By now, you're thinking that I haven't talked about the story yet. Well, it's a story of two parts - the A-plot is fairly good for the most part. Much as Trixie was annoying as hell, Starlight's frustration was, again, relatable for me personally, and it got to the point where Granny Smith, Bulk Biceps, and... the jeweler mare (I don't know her name either; let's go with that, shall we?) end up being controlled by Starlight's anger. We'll come back to that in a bit.

And that brings me onto the B-plot with the Mane Six. It's pointless. It feels like a half-baked excuse to get them away from Ponyville to allow the A-plot to take place. Not only that, they feel like one-note stereotypes of themselves.

Forgive me for a second digression, but that's also the biggest problem the Human Five have. More often than not, they have very few distinct traits and often act alike, neglecting anything that made their pony counterparts complex and individual. Rainbow Dash is an over the top jerk, Rarity constantly preaches fashion, Pinkie becomes a joke that gets tired after the third time, and Applejack and Fluttershy are just... there. And don't get me started on Sci-Twi.

And to end my thoughts on the B-plot, the song is downright terrible. We got the message after The Cutie Re-Mark; the Mane Six have an unbreakable best friendship. We don't need a song to shove it down our throats. Hell, even newcomers of the show will understand that they're best friends, and it just treats fans as if they're stupid. And no, lamp-shading it doesn't make it any less preachy.

The best thing about the episode (other than Starlight actually feeling relatable for the audience) was the moral - bottling anger can actually do more hurt than good. I think it's a lesson kids and older fans should take to heart, especially if their friends act like Trixie. That being said, the moral does write Trixie's character to suit it, which isn't exactly the best way to teach lessons for children.

Final Thoughts
I'm not a fan of this episode. The pacing felt rather slow at points (Celestial Advice had a similar problem, but it did try making up for that), Trixie was a nuisance in the first two acts, and the B-plot feels like it was there to pad out the episode to 22 minutes. However, it did feel like the first step for Starlight to get some character development (gotta start somewhere, I suppose), and the moral - despite writing Trixie's character in order to teach it - is a strong lesson to learn, so it's only fair I give All Bottled Up a rating based on those factors.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MLP Episode 701: Celestial Advice

Wow, I should've done this a long time ago. Why I didn't do it earlier was for many reasons; dealing with college, fanbase shenanigans, a petty fan over my hatred over Mirror Magic, moving to Oregon, settling down in Oregon, the buzz over Journey Beyond Sodor, and Thomas' 21st season. Because of it, my reviews for My Little Pony's seventh season got pushed into the backburner, and since it's coming to an end by the end of October, I decided to finally haul flank and get it done while I can.

So, without further confusion or delay, let's kick off the first half of season seven, starting with Celestial Advice. And whilst you're reading the review, don't be alarmed by any changes I've made to the format.

Following season six and the atrocity known as Legend of Everfree, I was extremely weary for the future of My Little Pony. I felt it may have gone on for too long and considering that Littlest Pet Shop lasted for four seasons, perhaps MLP could've ended whilst it had the chance. And then we got the surprise that the season premiere was actually two individual episodes rather than the two-part premiere we've come to expect since the very beginning. But was it any good? Surprisingly, yes!

However, I will get this out of the way before getting to the good stuff; the ending feels rather anti-climactic. Starlight insisting on staying with Twilight for a while yet is fine, but it renders everything she's been through between The Cutie Re-Mark and this episode completely pointless, and therefore making season six look like filler (even if one of my Top 10 episodes came from it). It's not helped by the fact that Twilight was barely helpful toward Starlight in said season, the latter could easily have been replaced by anypony, and that the criticisms regarding her were lampshaded.

That aside, let's talk about everything else. The story does move a bit slow - not necessarily a bad thing, and you really don't know what could happen next since this follows To Where and Back Again. It's character driven, and I really appreciate that.

Even though Discord's subplot doesn't add much, he drives Twilight's inner conflict as to where Starlight should go. His rivalry with Trixie is also rather funny as he knocks her ego down a peg or two, and even suggests turning Celestia's castle into cheese (I don't think she'd be too pleased about that, especially if some of the guards had a little nibble!)

Heck, Spike's reactions to Twilight's fantasies as to where to send Starlight are funny as well; he knows it's all in Twilight's head and how much she can exaggerate at times. That's what happens to you when you live with someone like Twilight Sparkle your whole life.

I actually like how the second act was handled. It utilizes the three-strikes formula, sure, but it also adds to Twilight's concern for Starlight's well-being, a huge step up from No Second Prances and especially The Times They Are A Changeling. That being said, the first two fantasies are slightly interchangeable with each other, but the third one with Sunburst was definitely the straw that broke the pony's back.

For me, the best character of the episode was Princess Celestia. After seven seasons, she finally gets major focus for at least half an episode! Sure, she was prominent during the first two seasons, but she wasn't really a major player in, let's say, Call of the Cutie or The Best Night Ever. Rather, she was there to either help deliver the message or drive the plot.

She also does it here, but there's also a bit of added depth to Celestia's backstory leading up to Mare in the Moon. It's wonderfully done, and there's even a minor nod to Amending Fences. (On a side note, please give Moon Dancer an episode! That's all I ask for right now! Either that, or mention Sunset Shimmer in the actual show.)

That being said, when the episode first came out, there was a rather interesting comment on DeviantArt criticizing Celestia's portrayal, which I kind of understand, since MLP has a bit of a reputation for bringing up character backgrounds without proper explanation (looking right at you, Crusaders of the Lost Mark). Sure, Celestia has had many generations of students, but I think there's the possibility that very few students before Twilight had a special bond with her and Celestia may have forgotten. Yeah, she's seemingly at lest a millennia old, but I don't think her memory is perfect either.

And I dare you to say that Celestia and Twilight's moment after the story isn't one of the most heartwarming scenes of the show. Seriously, Twi almost looks up to Celie like a second mother, and even though she's grown up, she still needs her former mentor when she needs help the most.

Final Thoughts
I really hope Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco stay for the foreseeable future. Yes, Legend of Everfree was an unspeakable atrocity, but the girls have shown that they can make the best out of potentially bad ideas or, in some cases, revisit past themes with a new twist on their own, and a couple of episodes further down season seven really show that they do belong on the writing staff.

On the whole, Celestial Advice is a pretty strong start to season seven, and I was dreading watching season seven before it began! However, if the live action Wonder Woman film has taught be anything, it's that even in the bleakest of times for a franchise, there's almost always a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. It's also worth watching this episode for a really funny gag involving Pinkie Pie at the end, so...!

Rating: 9 out of 10

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rosie's New Look - Revisited

Yep, this is still a talking point, six and a half months after the announcement that Rosie was going to get a revamp. And of course, stupid, immature fans would rather recycle old topics than actually discuss something very few have brought up. And since Journey Beyond Sodor's American release isn't too far off, I decided to again talk about Rosie being painted red... or at least, specifically, a comment on DeviantArt concerning the matter, and the holes in the commentator's logic.

(For my full take on this from January, click here.)

Not too long ago, a new promo for the revamped Rosie was released on the official Thomas website (and good timing too!), so what're my thoughts on this? It definitely looks sharper than what we first saw, and the inclusion of rivets makes her look better. At the same time, it's a bit annoying if you put Rosie alongside Thomas and/or Percy; they look very plain and toy-like compared to her!

But of course, there are some fans who don't like this change, and one got so angry over it that he left the Thomas fandom - I, personally, left the fandom because some people can be intolerant idiots. (Not that the MLP fandom's any better, but still.) Basically, some fans can handle change the same way Donald Trump handles anybody who disagrees with his beliefs (yes, I compared the Thomas fandom to America's so-called "President" - deal with it).

But that's not what I'm concerned about; no, my real concern lies in a comment left by CCB-18 on DevinatArt on this submission.

Yeah, I think James' expression here sums up my reaction best; I'm calling BS on that user's comment, and I'm going to explain why.

If he's hoping that Rosie's new look isn't permanent, spoiler alert, IT IS. If they brought Rosie back in that garish pink livery, fans would be thinking about the Rosie in seasons 10-16, where she didn't have much personality to speak up. How is this upgrade "unnecessary"? Shows need changes in order to stay relevant, otherwise, they become stagnant and boring to watch. Take a look at Magical Mystery Cure and if you still think Twilight Sparkle should've stayed a unicorn, would we have had Starlight Glimmer? (Twilight being an alicorn may or may not have had a direct impact on Starlight's presence in the show, but it's something I thought people should think about.)

Next, he says red shouldn't be Rosie's color for three equally ridiculous reasons:
  1. The amount of red engines on Sodor - Is red anymore a dominant color than green or blue? I think not! Not only that, James is the only red engine in the Steam Team whilst everyone else (except Toby, who's brown) is blue or green.
  2. It risks making her a background character - She was basically a background character when she was pink; what makes you think red will make her more of a background character? She's going to have some roles in season 21, for goodness sake!
  3. She looks like Lily from Sodor: The Modern YearsRosie and Lily DO NOT look the same! Yes, they're red, they're tank engines, and they have NWR on their tanks, but that's it! Rosie is a 0-6-0 1940s dock tank engine, whilst Lily is a 0-4-4 1890s suburban passenger tank engine. Compare the two engines end to end and then say they look alike. It's like saying Arthur and Belle are the same engine despite the obvious differences; stupid and illogical. Also, Rosie has had her lamp since Percy's Lucky Day in season 17. Where was the complaining then?
I'd bring up the fact that pink is part of the rainbow, but... it's just a pigment of our imagination. Don't believe me? Read this article. I know some will argue she's lavender, but... potato, tomato.

Then he brings up the fact that we're reverting to the book illustrations, and thinks that we'll see Donald and Douglas will become blue, and the Skarloey engines red. What does that have to do with Rosie's revamp? Keep in mind that the Railway Series and the television adaptation are two different entities; they always have been, and always will be. By comparing the two, you're comparing an apple to an orange. The most likely scenario is that they'll stay in their TV series colors for the sake variety. (Before anyone brings up Arthur, he hasn't appeared since season 12.)

And lastly, how is Rosie "ruined"? She was basically a mess of a character from the get-go; season 10 basically made her out to be a creepy stalker and in seasons 13-16, she was interchangeable with... just about anyone. I'd rather have a reworked Rosie than be reminded of her roles in the Barlow era.

The bottom line is, that guy's just basing his opinion off of paranoia with the mindset of "OH NOEZ ROSY GOT A REPAINT; DA SHOW IS RUINED 4EVA!! BURN IN HELL, MATTEL!!!!!!" or something along those lines. I say shut up and wait and see for how the new Rosie will play out rather than come up with stupid, worse-case scenarios that have a 0% of ever happening. There are a few things that keep Thomas and Friends from reaching its full potential, and the redesign of a tertiary character sure as hell ain't one of them. Rosie will never go back to what she was once was, and if you can't accept change, then maybe you shouldn't be taking a goddamn children's show so seriously!

Oh, and if anybody's gonna make some stupid, pointless petition to change Rosie back - don't. You're just wasting your time over something meaningless. Grow up.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Thomas and Friends Specials: The Great Race

Finally, after almost a year's worth of waiting, I finally tackle the 2016 special for Thomas and Friends - The Great Race. Why it's taken this long is because of moving to Oregon, other projects, and more recently, a scandal involving some MLP fans on DeviantArt (and people wonder why I've made the decision to leave both the Thomas and Brony fandoms). Also, I want to focus on improving the quality of my reviews, especially the first five seasons of MLP where, for some reason, I made some huge mistakes on certain episodes.

That being said, here's the first monkey I've chosen to shake off my back.

I must state from the get-go that I like the idea of an international railway show for a Thomas and Friends story. I had some ideas on how it'd go, but I never got around to fully forming a story based on the concept. Then The Great Race came by and I was eager to see how it would play off. After watching it again for the sake of reviewing, how does it stack up?

Frankly, The Great Race is just downright stupid, even for a kid's film. The basic gist is that Thomas is whining because he feels he isn't good enough to go to the Great Railway Show on the mainland, so he tries to prove himself worthy but his plans all backfire, yet he ends up going to the show because Gordon doesn't have his safety valve. Couple that with some North American jerk attacking Philip, a plethora of pointless internationals, one who contributes bugger-all to a cliched plot, an actually somewhat entertaining Diesel subplot, and a brother rivalry that has wasted potential of being expanded upon, you get the Thomas and Friends equivalent to Friendship Games, Legend of Everfree, and the 22-minute "special" Mirror Magic all rolled into one.

Let's start with Thomas' story - a.k.a. the main plot. It's boring. He wants to be faster, he wants to look better, and he wants to prove his strength. This is basically season 11's Dream On all over again, except it was way better written, didn't need a runtime longer than seven minutes, and it came from the Barlow Era! Thomas is also terribly written in the special; for some reason, we're supposed to root for him, but all he does is whine about not going to the show (even though the promotional material says he'll be here anyway, but I digress) and even goes through the same tropes we've seen before when he meets Ashima - she bumps into him, nearly causing him to fall into the sea, and he acts like she caused a wreck on his branchline! Oh, and he gets mad when she takes Annie and Clarabel cause that's never happened before...

Actually, that brings me onto Ashima. Sure, her render looks lovely and Tina Desai is talented, but there's an elephant in the room regarding her - she's pointless. Her character's bland and she does nothing that other female engines (probably except for Daisy) couldn't have. Say what you want about Emily during seasons 8-12, but at least being bossy and sometimes rude gave her something to work with in her own episodes. Ashima? She's bubbly, positive, and a good shunter - not a lot of story-telling potential with that, is there? And what does she gain from Thomas when she helps him out? At least with Gator in Tale of the Brave, he taught Percy how to be brave, and in return, the latter helped the former face his fear of heights. Their relationship felt very genuine and it was a tear jerker when Gator left for his home. In The Great Race, Thomas and Ashima's relationship is forced; she's basically the Timber Spruce of the Thomas universe.

Speaking of which, there's Vinnie. Like Timber Spruce, Vinnie is a complete jerk and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. His subplot with Philip is also terribly written; the little guy doesn't even stand up for himself, and when Vinnie crashes into the pylon, Philip laughs at him even though it was Thomas and Ashima who helped him out! (He's also ungrateful toward the latter as she wins the shunting competition, even after she saved him from Vinnie's wrath.) Also, why does Sodor need a flag carrier, especially when no other country has one? And what reason does Vinnie have to pick on Philip? If he lost the Strength Competition and wanted to vent his anger on someone, then I'd understand. But no, Vinnie's a bully because... of course he is.

While I'm on the subject of international engines (excluding Flying Scotsman, who's fantastic), they barely have any personality between them. All I can get out of them is that Axel's a bit dense, Frieda's rather touchy, and Yong Bao gets jealous when he doesn't get the spotlight, but that's it. All twelve of them are the Thomas equivalent of the Crystal Prep Shadowbolts, only there's more than twice as many. Their introduction is also a complete mess; how did their ship's captain not realize Sodor wasn't the right stop? That's not even mentioning it was also a half-arsed way to set up Thomas and Ashima's "dynamic".

This bit's rather nitpicky as well, but I'll comment on it anyway; how could Ashima not know how to get to Vicarstown, especially when Thomas was coming from there? Would it really have hurt for her crew to check a map? Here, it feels like padding.

Actually, that's one of the biggest problems with the special; it tries to build up to the Great Railway Show, but it takes half of the run time to even get to that point, and even then, it's contrived as heck. You could easily remove all that half-arsed build up and "tension" (Thomas and Norman's crash - that we never see - that stupid, infamous bridge jump, just to name a few), and then spend forty-five minutes showcasing the main events (they don't even showcase the winner of the strength competition, for goodness' sake!). But apparently, that's not important as Thomas' story...

Another legitimate issue is the movie's moral. Don't get me wrong, being yourself is a good lesson, but it's shoved down your throat to the point you think that was what the movie was based around! Either that, or the toys, or a combination of both. (Not helping is that it's become a generic message by this point; why do you think The Emoji Movie has negative reviews?) At this point, characters should build the story, which in turn builds the moral. Instead, it's the other way around that the moral becomes the story's basis, which writes Thomas' character.

To further prove my point, there's Percy. Like, what happened to the poor little guy? It was only in Tale of the Brave that he learned to be brave, and later regained his confidence in Missing Gator, and suddenly, it's all taken away from him just to make Thomas look good, despite coming off as unsympathetic in the first half. Well, chronologically speaking, Percy was already there with Three Steam Engines Gruff, but again, I digress.

If there was one character I thought was very well written in the special, it's Diesel. I've really liked his portrayal and character development in recent years. He may not be as devious as he was during seasons two and three, but he's grown to the point he's a comic villain with a soft side. I'd rather have this portrayal of Diesel than the one the Thomas Creator Collective gave him as an over the top baddie. No, Diesel is cocky, and the reason he got back at Duck was because he thought the pannier tank humiliated him on purpose and wanted to get his own back. As it turned out, Duck hadn't been very specific about what trucks Diesel was to take, so both were at fault here.

I'm getting sidetracked. I have no issues with Diesel's subplot for what it is, but do we need to shoehorn the steam vs. diesel conflict just for the sake of toys? I think not. It's hilarious, yes, but it barely even affected the story. Sure, Thomas had his accident, but he still goes to the show anyway despite the damage he got. Heck, he still could've gone to the show (Gordon without his safety valve) and nothing would change. That being said, his musical number is funny and the mid-credits scene brings his story to a fun end, even if it's pointless in the long run.

I can't discuss The Great Race without bringing up the Flying Scotsman. It's great to see him in CGI - though the livery is a bit disappointing - and I like the persona he's given. Looks like Gordon got his own Gordon to put up with on a regular basis. :P In the books, Scotsman's character felt kinda bland, but in CGI, he's cocky and loves annoying his brother, which is way more interesting to see. I really wish that had been the main focus of the special; it'd give Gordon a different shade to his character (a bit like Gordon and Spencer in season seven), as well as justification for wanting to be streamlined despite disliking the treatment in the past. That being said, it is a shame that Scotsman chose to try and win the race and leave his brother to die...

As for what else I liked (which wasn't much), the animation is solid throughout. Sure, there's silly mistakes, but keep in mind that there's always going to be imperfections in the visuals, even if you're the best director in the world. It's a shame that Arc closed down, but lucky for them they were taken over by Jam Filled. If you ignore the lackluster story, it's among Arc's best animation, and it shows how far they've gone with animation since King of the Railway.

For his first Thomas production, Chris Renshaw did an amazing job with the music. He definitely captures the Hartshornes' music whilst adding his own flavor. "Will You Won't You" is a great start, "Streamlining" is something of a guilty pleasure, "I'm Full of Surprises" is hilarious, but "You Can Only Be You" and its partial reprise just come off as generic and preachy (though when Thomas sings in the first version, it does leave some suicidal implications), even if they have the best intentions at heart, and I appreciate that. Still, it's not a song I'd put in my top ten.

Final Thoughts
They are going to be personal, of course. The Great Race had all the potential to be... ahem, great. The premise is promising, the new characters could've had a chance to shine, but none of it mattered because Mattel wanted Thomas to have yet another lead role, despite that he's already got too many specials with him as the main character. I get that the show is called Thomas and Friends, but it's as much about his friends as it is him.

What's also sad is that, despite being made for toys, Tale of the Brave and Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure were actually successful at telling a solid story. Why they couldn't do so for The Great Race is beyond me. I know that Brenner and co. have to work with some restrictions, but if they can't do so, that's on them. (The same applies to the TCC.)

But perhaps the most frustrating thing about The Great Race is that season 20 comes way too late for us Thomas fans. Seriously, season 19 did not feature any of the newbies from Lost Treasure, and the newbies from The Great Race (except for Scotsman, who will most likely appear in the future) won't be appearing in future seasons except (possibly) for Big World, Big Adventures! (More on that in a bit.) If season 20 was going to feature the Lost Treasure newbies and returnees, why would you have a completely unrelated special come before it? Just to remind us all, this is the timeline for the Arc/Jam Filled productions: (the last two are kinda debatable by this point; the letters indicate order of release)
  1. The Adventure Begins (E)
  2. King of the Railway (A)
  3. Season 17 (B)
  4. Tale of the Brave (C)
  5. Season 18 (D)
  6. Season 19 (G)
  7. Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure (F)
  8. Season 20 (I)
  9. The Great Race (H)
  10. Journey Beyond Sodor (J)
  11. Season 21 (K)
With the over-promotion of The Great Race, there was a chance that kids won't even remember Lost Treasure or even care about the characters from said special featured in season 20, expecting to see the international engines. Then, when Big World, Big Adventures! is released in 2018 (apparently), two years after The Great Race, will kids even remember the international engines, let alone their names? This also reminds me; Dance Magic featured the Shadowbolts from Friendship Games, and the former came out in 2017, two years after the latter did; since the specials take place after Legend of Everfree, will kids even remember the Shadowbolts? I bring that up because, from what I heard, Dance Magic was meant to take place between Friendship Games and Legend of Everfree, but dialogue was tweaked so the special took place after the latter rather than before.

Never mind being yourself; I think the lesson we can take from here is that we should always plan ahead. There may be confusion and negative reviews if we don't.

As for The Great Race? I can say with confidence that this is the worst Thomas special. Yes, Calling All Engines is rather dull, yes, Misty Island Rescue is stupid, and yes, Day of the Diesels contained racist implications... but all three of them came from an era where you expected generic, poor writing. With specials like Tale of the Brave and Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, you expect Brenner and co. to know better, especially with Thomas' character, who went through some great development in the latter!

If you want this plot done right, try either Best Engine Ever or Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. Both focused on the relationships between Emily and Caitlin and Ralph and Vanellope, respectively, and they had a stronger emphasis on storytelling and character development. The Great Race didn't do either, and even if it did well in UK theaters, it doesn't change the fact that the special's a total mess and it felt like Andrew Brenner bowed to Mattel's demands than actually do what he wanted.

Rating: 0 out of 10