Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MLP:FIM - Top Ten Characters Who Have Gained Major Mojo (ft. The Railfan Brony)

As you've probably observed us (separately) over the past time being, we absolutely adore My Little Pony's 7th season. But you wanna know what the best part about it was? We had such low hopes for it, but apart from a few duds, it turned out to be a surprisingly solid season. And while last year (on Zack's blog), we looked at those characters that have LOST major mojo, we feel now that Season 7 has concluded, it's about time to look at those that have gained it back. Now, here's a couple of rules:
  1. Any character of the franchise is acceptable.
  2. However, any characters that had strength or were consistently good from the get go won't be considered. (That means you won't be seeing Spike or the Cutie Mark Crusaders (even if there was at least ONE problem or two we've had with them throughout Seasons 1-5), as they've already boosted up their development greatly during the first five seasons, nor will you see Big Macintosh, as his character has earned a stellar reputation during Season 5 with no major grudges overtime)
So basically, we're only looking at characters who have boosted their characterization to great lengths, and were brought back to their true sane selves either right after the show's weakest season that is Season 6 or, at least for some of these entries, right AFTER Season 5. So with that said, let's kick things off...

Even if Rainbow Dash's parents seem as average of characters as Parental Glideance itself, that doesn't have any effect on how greatly she's improved overtime. Last season, Rainbow Dash was either the victim of bullying (Newbie Dash), or an insufferable idiot for no reason (28 Pranks Later). She showed shades of redemption in Top Bolt which, thankfully, carried over onto the likes of Campfire Tales with her sisterly relationship with Scootaloo and Daring Done? with her helping to restore Daring Do's reputation. She normally would've ranked herself a much higher spot on our collab countdown here, but unfortunately there are three simple words that disregard most of those achievements she could've held on to all the way to the very end of the season:

Secrets... and... Pies!

Zecora is very much an underrated character in the whole franchise of My Little Pony. She was off to a good start in characterization since her introduction in Season 1's Bridle Gossip, but the thing that puts her on this list is how much more interesting she became after two simple installments during this 7th season. It also helps that both episodes were back to back. Sure, it might've been a freak occurrence, but it was still nice to see her and several other minor characters get some screen time. (And a few more of those are to come!) For episodes such as It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, she was given more personality, and acted as a great help of being a kind-hearted character to Rarity, whilst in A Health of Information, she was just as great of a moral deliverer as other great characters can be. And some of you may be asking, "If she's so great now, why isn't she any higher on the list?" Well...

It's safe to say that for the most part in Season 6, Pinkie was surprisingly well written. The only problem we had with her in Season 6? P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View). And yes, even despite her near flawless development in Season 7, she also goes a little downhill on the countdown what with Secrets and Pies (if not as badly as RD did since by the end of the episode, we ultimately felt far sorrier for Pinkie than we ever did for Rainbow "Dishonest Jerk" Dash). But what about the events (and episodes no doubt) that supercharged her character? Like usual, she cares deeply for her sister Maud (even if she came off as overbearing), and even tried extending friendship to the yaks (even if they're stupid jerks that don't deserve it anyway). And there have been other great moments she's had recently, but to end this on another note, alongside Rainbow Dash, we're just going to try to forget her characterization in SaP for an eternity, and we have Season 7's surprisingly strong finale (by Josh Haber) Shadow Play to thankfully start that factor off. Next...

After the many flops of characterization Friendship Is Magic's protagonist has gone through in Season 6, Season 7 seemed to have been a season of new (potential) hope for Twilight. Yeah, the way she was portrayed in episodes like A Flurry of Emotions were a far cry from No Second Prances and The Times They Are A Changeling. Back in that season, she was best suited as a total hypocrite, that we both could've consider hating her completely after the whole season. But since we thought any other characters on the countdown besides her deserve a chance to redeem themselves in Season 7, we decided to give her that chance, and with the help of plenty of other nice writers in the season, she's done herself just enough justice. Even if she's lowered down because of some smaller moments in episodes where she was still good, she still deserves a spot on this list for doing so well recently. And no, not even Season 7 duds like All Bottled Up, Fame and Misfortune, or even Secrets and Pies put her through any real derailment. So, I think it's safe to say that the Twilight we loved in the first five seasons is now back on the right track. And with Season 7, she's currently back to her old sane self that we've both been waiting for to come back.

While some of you would think we'd put Celestia on the list because of the surprisingly great normal-length season premiere that is Celestial Advice, that's only her appetizer...much like it is for one other character we'll later be mentioning. Celestia really spiced herself up with her main course that is A Royal Problem. In the previous seasons, she served mostly as a mentor to Twilight (see above entry) and to help provide an episode's message. With both episodes, it showed a side to Celestia we didn't see all too often - with the possible exception of a moment in Slice of Life where she and Luna bickered. Considering Celestia's gained some major attention and spotlight during the season like Zecora had, Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco should honestly be very proud of themselves for taking her development to great heights now that both episodes that gave her all of that shining screen time upon their releases have aired.

Too bad her sister Luna's still gonna need a lot more help than just A Royal Problem to get herself up to pure awesomeness like Celestia's always destined to be.

Rarity did quite well during the first half of Season 6, but in the second half? Not so much. Last time around, she ranked #9 on the list of characters who lost their mojo, and the fact that she reached #5 here says quite a lot with the likes of Forever Filly and It Isn't The Mane Thing About You. If you really look into them, Forever Filly is pretty much a well-deserved sequel to Sisterhooves Social which just goes to show that developing a strong bonding relationship with her younger filly sister Sweetie Belle really teaches you to do the same with any of your own younger siblings (at least for those of you who have at least one). And what about her starring role in It Isn't the Mane Thing About You? Well, the moral she learned was a very useful one; make the most out of a bad situation. Although I wouldn't have minded if she kept her look for a couple more episodes, but as she's a main character, I can kind of understand why they didn't go that direction. But, with or without a new look from one of her best episodes by far, she's still done herself more than enough wonders for good characterization.

I figured that, while I could talk about Discord yet again and everything that puts him on the countdown, you, Zack, should now take a shot at explaining everything that made him go from somepony who lost (only) a small amount of mojo, to yet another character who's brought back to his sane self.

When Discord was introduced back in The Return of Harmony, he gained a cult following all thanks to his wacky personality, his charisma, and, of course, John de Lancie. He later made a return in the Season 3 episode Keep Calm and Flutter On and got a redemption which left fans fuming... for a while, at least. But was he completely reformed? No, he still had habits he couldn't kick, as evident with Three's a Crowd and Princess Twilight Sparkle, but he still had shining moments in those episodes, as well as Twilight's Kingdom and Make New Friends But Keep DiscordThe only exception to his character (that of which put him on our list of characters who lost their mojo... but admittedly to the point where he only started it off) is What About Discord? which... we've moaned about enough already. But thankfully, that was just a blip, and his roles in Dungeons and Discords and Celestial Advice did his character justice (heck, we could even say the same thing about his role in the poorly time Season 6 finale that is To Where and Back Again), and Discordant Harmony solidified that.

Yeah, what Zack said...

I don't think I've a lot to say in regards to Applejack in recent seasons. For the most part, she was pretty well written, but, like Rarity and Rainbow Dash before her, she has had her moments of idiocy in The Cart Before the Ponies and P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View), but the likes of Where the Apple Lies do make up for those drawbacks. And yeah, she may have been a part of most of Season 7's duds, but unlike Season 6's, none were to the point where she was OOC in the slightest. (And yes, this even includes Fame and Misfortune, and Pinkie and Rainbow Dash's downside that is Secrets and Pies) But another big reason she was boosted to great success in gaining massive character mojo is (undeniably) Season 7's best episode known The Perfect Pear (even if her only characterization was to focus on learning that of her parents). There's really not much else to say other than it's funny how a character that many dismissed as a background pony actually has a lot more depth than they gave credit for.

Yup, based on how kindly we've been towards her in Season 7 thanks to obvious character improvement over Season 6, you all just KNEW GlimGlam would show up here at some point. And for the record, it's just amazing how far she's come most recently after every negative thing we've infinitely talked about her already. Amazing episodes obviously back all of that up, and for whatever surprising reason, none of the season has treated her like her old Season 6 self even in the weaker episodes throughout. Clearly going to show how much more credit the season deserved based on how much its positives make up for any of its negatives.

And I don't know about you, but when we put her at #7 on the show's characters who lost some mojo, well... that may have been a little harsh, but she was admittedly somewhere along those mojoless lines of Discord. But since we're now looking past that, there's just that much more hope for her in future seasons to come. And yet... she's only reached the #2 spot on this Top 10.

Before we shout out to our greatest choice, here are a couple

We bet you saw her coming, didn't ya? When you try to bring a character back to his/her sane self, and are willing to take risks when developing him/her to another level at the same time throughout TWO seasons (and not just one after the other), you're surely taking a turn for the better when it helps this particular character to walk as far away as possible from at least one little failure (like Season 5's Scare Master). And that's the main reason why we put Fluttershy just slightly above Starlight.

Up until Scare Master, Fluttershy was brilliant in Season 5, but how she went from standing up against Starlight to being scared of candy, of all things, is anypony's guess. Fortunately, Flutter Brutter got things back on track with her character, and it showed (if you have younger siblings) how relatable she can be with a smart alleck younger brother out of Zephyr Breeze. Then in Buckball Season, she showed a more sporty side to her, Viva Las Pegasus gave her a more determined layer in her character, and Fluttershy Leans In was the culmination of her development up to that point which carried over onto Discordant Harmony and A Health of Information.

I could gush for days, but for me, Fluttershy beats every other character in franchise. Except Sunset Shimmer... and Discord as well (for ME at least). Based on everything we have now pointed out, from her stand-ups to - and FOR other characters during Seasons 6 & 7, to even more turning points in her development that just kept on improving her for the better (no matter how many duds she was unfortunately a part of, despite that she wasn't the main focus on any of them), as well adding more and more charisma to her (much like Discord), Fluttershy comes out as a character with strong reputation and potential for herself; and all of that is more than enough for her to take the cake as the character who has gained herself the most mojo in all of MLP.

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This has been Tyler Smith, and Zack Wanzer, and we'll see you all in our next collab..

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 13, 2017

MLP:FIM - Season 7 Review

Last year, Season 6 has been a bit rough on things like MLP's characters, storylines, and the general reception it deserved during its first four seasons (especially during Season 4). In that sense, I've had particularly low hopes for this year of new brands and editions to MLP's current generation as when it went even farther downhill during Season 6, I felt as though it overstayed its welcome for lacking anything with genuine heart, or the fact that it just kept repeating the same elements over and over again adding nothing new to the table. If Season 7 has done anything this year, it's that it took one side of Zack and my Saves/Kills that 2017 can do to the franchise, while EG (sadly) took the other. So with that mentioned, let's discuss it, shall we?

When it comes to its 25 various episodes, Season 7's positives ultimately make up for its very few negatives. The premiere Celestial Advice was a surprisingly solid start as a normal-lengther, but then along came All Bottled Up - which at best is an installment I rather love to hate instead of "HATE" hate on the flipside. From then on, A Flurry of Emotions to A Royal Problem all supercharged Season 7 to great lengths, even if Parental Glideance was rather average for being straight up weird in a few senses. Not Asking for Trouble may have lacked the heart and charm that almost every other Season 7 episode had before it, but making up for that failure are the two biggest highlights of the season's first half for me; Discordant Harmony, and the episode that's along the line in the very middle - The Perfect Pear, which in its own right, comes out above everything else in the season for its two great guest stars. So you could say Part 1 came out to a great start to the season.

As for Part 2, it briefly slipped on the ice before getting itself back up. Fame and Misfortune was not a good move to welcome back an already remarkable season after two incredible ones. But thankfully, with or without the mediocre Triple Threat, anything else onward from Campfire Tales to Once Upon a Zeppelin have helped us to pretend that any said flops never happened. And while Secrets and Pies is another bad blip for the last few installments onward, Uncommon Bond was acceptable at best... and forgettable at worst. But those two weaker outings are forgiven (mostly) for the finale Shadow Play that puts one writer back on those heights of strong MLP writers. So for Part 2; it comes in at just a close second to being as strong as Part 1.

As a whole, Season 7's collection of episodes stand above pretty much every other season's (including all the strong quality of Season 3's half baked library), minus Season 4 (as Somepony to Watch Over Me was the fourth season's only dud). All of the quality together makes it stand above Season 1, but more I'm about to discuss here only add to the season's strong reputation. So now, let's move on to the characters...

I've already said that there were literally no characters I came to necessarily "loathe" in Season 7, so you should know how positive I'm about to talk here. But there are plenty of awesome new characters thrown into the mix. Although we started off with Rainbow Dash's admittedly respectable, but extremely weird parents Windy Whistles and Bow Hothoof in Parental Glideance, Feather Bangs made Hard to Say Anything more hilarious and fun since he was literally the tolerable kind of Justin Bieber unlike Everfail's Timtin Sprieber. I do have to admit that while both characters (particularly FB above Windy and Bow) do earn criticism amongst the fandom, they each deserve their own episodes (Windy and Bow together especially) for better character development. And the cream of this category's crop? Applejack's parents along with Grand Pear in The Perfect Pear, considering the fact that they have guest stars for voice actors/actresses (Bright Mac not withstanding), and that the parents have been anticipated since Lauren Faust's statement of them being deceased.

After the likes of the sliver lining characters in Fame and Misfortune (Toola Roola and Coconut Cream) that were basically throwback characters to old MLP generations, we also got the five other pillars of Old Equestria before Star Swirl in the finale throughout Campfire Tales, Daring Done?, and A Health of Information, and I gotta tell ya; they were all just so fascinating with interesting backstories and plot points in their characters: Rockhoof, Mistmane, Flash Magnus, Somnambula, Mage Meadowbrook. Pharynx was a welcome edition as well since he's literally the changeling that has better quality to his character than his younger brother Thorax ever could've been, but with other characters that may have been introduced as small background-like roles in any previous season that finally got development here that include Rumble and Thunderlane, there's more where these characters with great development came from. Not everypony is perfect however; I'm one of those bronies who criticizes Star Tracker in Once Upon a Zeppelin, as he's more annoying than he is interesting... and there's no reason to bring him back for a sequel episode. And finally with Star Swirl and Stygian, they may have earn some criticism, but I kinda find them intriguing at the end of the day.

So for any newer characters, almost everypony I admire make for some of my favorite characters of the series (even if none of them come out on top of Discord). As for the Mane Six and Spike; Twilight; even if she hasn't done quite enough favors for herself as other characters have, she's certainly come far from all the feces she's had in Season 6. Applejack; boosted her character to great lengths with episodes like The Perfect Pear. Fluttershy; same flawless development she had in Season 6. Pinkie Pie; great as well, up until Secrets and Pies. Rarity; Forever Filly and It Isn't the Mane Thing About You certainly did her justice after her big slip in the last bits of Season 6. And (last but not least) Rainbow Dash; same stats as both Twilight and Pinkie. And I don't have much to say about Spike or the Cutie Mark Crusaders as they've been done so well here and still remain excellent as ever. So in conclusion, in spite of some minor flaws half of the Mane Six may have had, every character (albeit Sunburst, Trixie, and Thorax who haven't done themselves any real favors whatsoever) and his or her development in the season truly is spot on... INCLUDING Starlight and her's!

As great as Season 7 is, every moral minus my Top Three WORST of the season have ultimately come out as some of the greatest for me, even if some stand above others. Those that stand out for me as reminder that I should always take them to heart have to be The Perfect Pear's on learning to let go of grudges and Marks and Recreation's on learning to try new things. Others like those of Forever Filly that teach you to bond with your younger siblings while also treating them like their exact age (if you have at least one), and when Discordant Harmony showed that friends would like you because you're different from them and that you open them up to more possibilities and impossibilities were terrific also, but the only downers are those three worst that are completely confusing; to this day, I'm not sure whether Pies' moral is about a friend making sure the other is happy for the sake of their own happiness, or if it's completely okay to like something for no logical reason. Either way, while there have been only a few small terrible lessons, that's only based on the fact that they're as completely confusing as the episodes they were delivered through are.

So while Uncommon Bond's moral wasn't half bad, and All Bottled Up's moral was a silver lining to its basic formulaic plot, even the two average installments had morals to back up some of their reception and the quality Season 7 deserves to help teach (and preach) kindness and compassion to kids and adults alike.

Now this is where I discuss the show's staff of writers, and how they've increased the stats of the overall series. And I gotta say they made a huge turn for the best. There are those writers that have made excellent comebacks - particularly Gillian M. Berrow and the lady writers; Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco, while others like the Fox Brothers (Mike and Wil) and Josh Haber have done themselves great justice after going downhill for episode grudges like sluggish pacing or cliched plots. Writers like M.A. Larson, and mainly newbie writer Josh Hamilton on the other hand I'm afraid aren't really destined to return for more and more seasons. I mean why would Larson (purposefully or accidentally) insult us bronies just to shove a stupid and confusing moral down our throats (insert a stupid and confusingly atrocious song into the mix as well)? And how could Hamilton go from decency in characterization to a terrible turn before the season's last two chapters? And while Nick Confalone hasn't really boosted his work as a writer, he at least stayed out of trouble unlike when he made two characters hypocrites in Season 6, and introduced detestably nonredeemable stereotypes in Season 5.

The likes of Sammie Crowley & Whitney Wetta (together, like the next lady writers after Lewis and Songco) and Kevin Lappin as writers are all welcome members of the staff that deserve another chance to write at Season 8. Crowley & Wetta have added newer ideas like fixing up bad ones from earlier seasons (A Flurry of Emotions that fixed up Baby Cakes- case and point) and boosted already greater characters to even bigger lengths in development (like what they did with Fluttershy in A Health of Information). Kevin Lappin may have slipped on the ice just before the finale (Uncommon Bond), but I gotta say Honest Apple and To Change a Changeling totally make up for that. May Chan may have started off on a disappointing note when bringing back characters Confalone utterly failed at introducing in a good manner just two years (or two seasons) earlier, but luckily, Marks and Recreation gave her some strong hope and potential that a newcomer truly deserves.

Writers that I have yet to decide on whether or not they SHOULD come back are those that have only written one episode ever so far. But depending on how they deliver themselves through their work in Season 8, I'll just have to see for myself: Becky Wangberg (Hard to Say Anything), Barry Safchik & Michael Platt (Campfire Tales), Brittney Jo Flores (Once Upon a Zeppelin), Nicole Dubuc (Shadow Play). And I will admit that whilst these writers have more in store for themselves later on, as well as the other good ones I mentioned, I feel Larson has now overstayed his welcome and should just move on, but since this is only Hamilton's first shot at an MLP season, my suggestion is that he should take a hiatus, go back to writing school, and learn the basics of what works in an admirable episode and what doesn't. So while some writers stand above others, overall, the production values for Season 7 come out as excellent as most of its episodes and newer characters.

Characters, episodes, and morals within the production values of Season 7 all add up to big breath of fresh air after making a turn for the worst in 2015. The library of episodes, while far from as strong as Season 4's, is stellar and for the most part makes any of its installments hard to skip past despite having only four sloppy outings. The newer characters all inspire the series to keep its welcome to television solidified for a few more years to come (if not necessary for an eternity). The morals - minus the three very worst of the season - are all worth delivering to all audiences to come along the series. And the new writers (with the exception of Hamilton at this point) have introduced themselves fantastically to the crew via their writing credits.

At this new stage of production for Friendship Is Magic, I have the same thoughts on everything I had beforehand with Season 7, and this is how the show has aged on for my taste in its seasons:
  1. Good
  2. Aged Badly
  3. Underrated
  4. Amazing
  5. Mediocre
  6. Sloppy
  7. Greatly Redeemed
Development for the Mane Six (especially Fluttershy) has blown my mind as much as those writers that redeemed themselves for the better (while others boosted themselves to obvious great lengths). Even if it does have its small bits of bruises (whether its the season's four sloppy episodes, three awful (and generally confusing) morals, or two writers who didn't prove themselves to be worthy for scripting the season out, much less if some characters were more tolerable than others), otherwise amazing character development, newer ideas, harmless morals (mostly), awesome moments to look back on, besides the obvious spot on animation and voice acting, definitely make Season 7 worthy for anypony to buy upon the season's release date, and all this strong reception this season has earned for my liking gives me strong hopes for Season 8 next year.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

MLP:FIM - Worst to Best ~ Season 7 (Part 3)

Look up some of the most adorable episodes of animated TV shows, and A Flurry of Emotions would mostly likely be Friendship Is Magic's main representation of said factor. I've been an uncle since right after I turned 6, and I'm generally not that fond of niece/nephew episodes of kids' shows, but I'll admit Emotions is... pretty darn cute. If there's anything else the episode itself, not to mention Sammie Crowley and Whitey Wetta themselves should be proud of, it's that this is basically another Baby Cakes- but one that's rather fixed up and admirably great. Flurry Heart's character hasn't really interested me much ever since Season 6's premiere, but while Shining Armor and Cadance's part was well done, if a little nonsensical compared to Twilight and Flurry's, every primary character throughout (including Spike) have done pretty good.

Throw in the fact that it helps Twilight to walk away from her overrated and sloppy characterization in Season 6, and another solid moral, and you have yourself a strong start for two such writers who wrote greatly even for Fluttershy in A Health of Information. Speaking of...

Ironic that both of Crowley and Wetta's episodes come together to start this third part off, right? And you all know Fluttershy's my personal favorite of the Mane Six, right? Then you know how much I love episodes centered around her (even if some are obviously better than others). Her development remains untouched and well distinguished for her own sake, Zecora gets another chance to shine after It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, Twilight develops nicely, and Mage Meadowbrook is introduced after the other old pillars in Campfire Tales and Daring Done?. Those nasty flash bees that Fluttershy and Meadowbrook take on (in their own separate time periods) are pretty interesting creatures considering the fact that their not like regular bees and have honey that can literally heal a certain disease or two, and Cattail - whom Twilight and Fluttershy meet in the amazon's a good character to include into the plot.

In fact, some brony on Facebook came up with it, but isn't it a potential theory that Applejack's parents could've died by that same Swamp Fever disease that could've taken over Zecora?

If you honestly want an episode that you can rewatch constantly no matter when you look back on Season 7, look no further than yet another gripping storyteller after Season 2's Hearth's Warming Eve; Campfire Tales. I mean Applejack's, Rarity's, and Rainbow Dash's stories they all tell to their sisters (albeit Scootloo being LIKE RD's filly sister) are all very interesting that you just can't get enough of them.

Applejack's tale of Rockhoof? Very epic, clever, and memorable to say the least. Rarity's of Mistmane? Somewhat emotional by the very end of it, but still pretty darn awesome when you come to know it. And Rainbow Dash's of Flash Magnus? My personal favorite of the three for Flash taking on all those dragons just to save an innocent life. (And isn't it also an observation that Ember's father Lord Torch was shown in it?) All of this is the end result of a simply magnificent chapter that, as I said, you just can't get enough of. And it may be just me, but epic episodes with so much backstory, let alone adventurous ones, seem to fascinate me the most in rewatching them - two-parters OR normal lengthers. Why do I not rank it any higher? While I absolutely love all of those tales, they were pretty short, but hey, the trio only had 22 minutes within an episode to explain those stories. And you know what else? There are just a few others that fascinated me more just slightly. Even if Campfire Tales was more fascinating by my standards in terms of a story concept than the next entry...

How many characters can honestly say they've learn from their mistakes in characterization & writing, and boosted themselves to great lengths in Season 7? Well for any reformed villains, Starlight can definitely say "Hey! I boosted myself to great lengths during Season 7." And not only that, but this could very well be her new best episode that stands above even her stellar start to her villainous character that is The Cutie Map. Even for those of you die hard Starlight haters, if you've ignored or panned Problem immediately just for Starlight alone, you should look on the brightside of things for it; it's the Freaky Friday of MLP episodes, AND it's Celestia's second episode where she shines as character in the spotlight after the premiere.

Now while Starlight's a rather average character, I'll admit she was pretty likable here in Season 7 than she ever could've been in Season 6. And Celestia and Starlight aren't the only ones who've done so well here - Luna wasn't half bad when she was doing her reverse part of her sister. That Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon dream sequence between Starlight and the two sisters is so epic, that it's one of Season 7's most memorable moments (and even one of the best of the series). So now that Starlight and Spike got their own Cutie Map episodes where they solve a friendship problem across Equestria, I'm waiting with bated breath for Friendship Is Magic to give Discord one. (I mean he DOES have yet to earn his throne in Twilight's castle, doesn't he?)

Speaking of episodes where characters get to shine in the spotlight, I had quite a hard time deciding whether to rank Problem or Advice higher since both share the same writers, but for being a surprisingly awesome normal-length premiere, along with the start of Celestia and Starlight's potential for the season, some interesting flashbacks Twilight imagined of Starlight in the future, strong characterization from even the minor characters, and of course, Discord's top notch humor, I went with Celestial Advice. Besides, do you always need to make the finale or premiere a two-parter to earn greater reception? The answer to that is 'not always'. And episodes like this always goes to show that sometimes a gripping storyline and solid moral can earn all the praise it can possibly get even if it doesn't include either my favorite character of the franchise, action-packed moments, or even guest stars for newer characters...

No, no, no! I was kidding when I said that; episodes with either my favorite character of the franchise, action-packed scenes, or guest stars (or all of the above) are just THAT much better than others. Like Gillian M. Berrow's installments in the season, Discordant Harmony was the Fox brothers' delicious main course that stands just above their appetizer that was a sequel to Sisterhooves Social; Forever Filly that is. And that's not only based on how Discord remains his usual sane self, but also how Fluttershy has once again developed more and more after how terrible she and the spirit of chaos himself were handled just before Season 5 ended. If I could honestly name the season's funniest episode, my first obvious pick would be Discordant Harmony. And I really don't wanna brag, but while he was only a bright spot in the average, but poorly timed To Where and Back Again, along with Dungeons & Discords not being quite favorable enough for my standards (for reasons I could recap all day), and What About Discord? being- well, his only case of assassination on his character so far (and let's hope something like that never ever happens again), his episodes always seem to come out as the best of the best... and not just for the fact that he's my all time favorite character of the franchise.

And for a theory, who honestly would've thought that Discord HAS to be chaotic at least in the slightest to survive? It's kinda like American Dad!'s alien character Roger who has to be insensitive at least at some points just so he won't get poisoned (or worse). So even every little small thing within it from Discord's adorable Fluttershy costume, his adorable fingers who eat Fluttershy's cucumber sandwiches at their tea party in the prologue, to his hysterical impression of that salespony at the tea shop, and even the way he remodels his own house as best as possible for his bestest friend, all adds up to one of Season 7's best. And the most interesting thing about it? This is the first episode that Discord plays a major role in without every single Mane Six character appearing (whereas only Andrea Libman's characters' made appearances here)... just like when Season 6's On Your Marks was the first episode to have none of them at all (even if one was only mentioned).

As if the underrated Daring Don't wasn't awesome enough, we get an ever greater sequel that follows up to all the elements that made every previous Daring Do episode that you had have come to love good via Daring Done?. I mean Dr. Caballeron returns as an awesome villain who literally gets revenge on Rainbow Dash, there's the backstory of Somnambula the Pegasus, that giant Sphinx Somnambula faces is so cool, the desert environment Daring Do, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie travel to looks like something reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Gerudo Town, and inserting a solid moral and storyline into the mix, you have another delicious main course by a writer like Berrow after the underrated Fluttershy Leans In. Even if others find it generic and boring, for my liking, Daring Done? could very well be the best PinkieDash collab episode of all time too... Now let's just look past their worst episode that is the 2nd worst of the season.

I've moaned about MOST OF Josh Haber's writing countless times throughout Seasons 5 and 6, but as with the Fox Brothers, and ever since It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, it just goes to show that sometimes you can have much better luck in some sequel seasons. And in Haber's case, this season's incredible finale undoubtedly solidified that. What makes Shadow Play unbelievably amazing however is how much it actually follows up to some of the previous installments in the season - particularly those of Campfire Tales, Daring Done?, and A Health of Information. And it's unexpected that those legends from older tales that the Mane Six have learned about, mostly those told of in Campfire Tales technically, were actually real. Another thing that boosts up its greatness? The Pony of Shadows finally shows up for an appearance after we've waited for up to three seasons straight... ever since Haber's FIRST installment in the series that is Season 4's Castle Mane-ia.

While Star Swirl may have disappointed some people when he was finally introduced physically (and not JUST in a book-like art style) what with his harsh persona, I kinda gotta admire him as a character since he was one who has been anticipated to make a physical appearance in pony - and not just in hand-drawn tales as other characters throughout the series have described him. And while Stygian the Pony of Shadows hasn't received quite enough screentime or development that he deserved unlike say Tirek or Chrysalis, Josh Haber and (now) Nicole Dubuc sprinkle just the right complexity and heart a two-parter like this one deserves. Forget The Cutie Re-Mark and To Where and Back Again, make more finales like this one awesome from now on, Haber!

I don't care how predictable you thought this entry was going to be. The Perfect Pear stands just slightly above the epic finale as the very best episode of Season 7. Besides the fact that we're finally introduced to the Apple siblings' long deceased parents, and that it's portrayed as William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in Pear Butter and Bright Mac's love story, we all know the big reason why it earns high honors from pretty much anypony, right? Felicia Day and (especially) William Shatner make guest star roles for Applejack's mother Pear Butter and her father Grand Pear. (Even if Bill Newton as Bright Mac isn't much of highlight) To sum its plot up best if I compared it to other installments of the show and not episodes of other TV shows, or movies, The Perfect Pear is a combination of Family Appreciation Day and Amending Fences, and that it has its two biggest stars portraying the Apples' former rivalry side of the family that are the Pears.

I might have ranked it lower where it would most likely just start off my Top Five if not for two new guest stars, but either way, it's a heartwarming tale that'll get you all choked up. If it doesn't, then I doubt anything else in the series will. I mean who needs stereotypical yaks that nobody even cares about or a story that rips off Season 2's MMMystery on the Friendship Express for all the wrong reasons, not to mention a plot that depicts us fans as absolute idiots when you have a gripping backstory that'll surely touch your heart and finally introduce you to characters the fandom has been dying to get more out of? Heck, this alone gives Applejack more and more mojo for her character, as well as the rest of her family that make appearances here. Alongside Pinkie Pride, The Mane Attraction, and Stranger Than Fan Fiction throughout the past three seasons, which are also masterpieces, Pear is so incredible, that it's easily worthy to crack anypony's Top Ten Overall Best.

All that said, with flawless performances by Day and Shatner as two sympathetic characters, top notch pacing in its sentimental storyline, a beautiful song sung by Day's character that it practically breaks your heart, a stellar moral teaching you to let go of grudges, and just a new and clever idea for a plot and characters especially, The Perfect Pear comes out as the best of Season 7, and still worthy to remain amongst even MY Top Ten Overall Best of Friendship Is Magic.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

MLP:FIM - Worst to Best ~ Season 7 (Part 2)

Rainbow Dash's parents may have been over-obsessed weirdos of their daughter, but Twilight's parents both had development without being portrayed in the same manner as Dashie's (which was pretty impressive), even if their new voices sound rather annoyingly stupid than suitable. It's a cool new idea to put to the table, although a few scenes like that creepy Twilight fanboy Star Tracker don't make it entirely rewatchable. Iron Will does have good moments to make Twilight a shining star to the crew, as well as moments to shine for himself in the spotlight after the much hated Putting Your Hoof Down in Season 2. I can't really say much else here other than episodes before this just catch my attention more. One brony grading it an A+ though (and rather in an inappropriate manner that I shall not discuss here)? That's weird.

Brittney Jo Flores, as a writer, may have done a half decent job with the only episode she's ever written so far, but she's sure to surprise me in Season 8... hopefully for the better. (If that's possible)

Based on his terrible story arc that practically makes even Starlight's look good, Thorax is now my new replacement for the old Starlight that me and Zack the Railfan Brony once both loathed. If I have to give him just a small bit of credit since he's practically nothing compared to (almost) any loathsome EG character, it'd be his relationship between not only with Ember in Triple Threat, but also his older brother Pharynx. His brother may have been a part of his terrible arc, but does that automatically make Pharynx a terrible character also? Nope! And I've already discussed Pharynx in my Best Characters of the Season list (so feel free to check that out if you're curious), but as for Starlight, she was well handled. Trixie on the other hand? Not improved and it's much funner to make fun of her here than how her actual character developed.

Even if Trixie wasn't included, the plot would still be the same considering how terrible Thorax's arc will forever be. And remember when I once said that I originally wanted GlimGlam to be removed from Friendship Is Magic permanently? Well, now Thorax (the most disappointing character in MLP history) and Trixie are tied for that dishonor. But in the end, all episodes in Thorax's arc may be either absolute failures (The Times They Are A Changeling) or rather average (Triple Threat), but To Change a Changeling just goes to show that there is at least ONE positive in every negative (almost).

If you think it's silly for me to put Fluttershy's first episode of the season (not to mention G.M. Berrow's second episode she's written by far) above many others and not labeling it as one of the season's worst, I'll give you a few good reasons to at least cut it a little slack, if not more. Besides the fact that entertainment isn't everything in an episode, Fluttershy gets the right development she deserves in her character, even if she is a bit assertive, but HEY! It's because she knows what's best for the critters that seem endangered. And she's generally not my overall favorite character of the franchise, but after everything she's done in Season 6, she's my personal favorite of the six Mane characters. So... love it or hate it, Fluttershy Leans In at least tried to have some heart to it unlike the three WORST of the season.

I'll admit my interest in it has died down eventually later on as the season progressed, but I still got give it credit for giving Fluttershy the treatment that she truly deserved in Season 6.

Josh Haber hasn't had that good of luck when writing episodes by himself, nor when he DOES write GOOD episodes in Season 6 (as that's all based on who assists him in his writing). But who've thought that Season 7 would even do HIM some major justice? In It Isn't the Mane Thing About You's case, there are at least three things you can label it as; gripping, hilarious, and remarkable. I mean isn't it funny when Rarity goes all bonkers when she uses the wrong bottle from Zecora that removes her mane rather than cleansing it? And doesn't Pinkie's fashioned mane near the very end look kinda beautifully cute when she used the (bottle of) shampoo that Rarity needed for her mane? And isn't Rarity's punk mane that goes on those magazine covers cool? The answer to all three of those questions are easily yes, yes, and... YES!

And as I always say with good episodes; great storyline, great moral, quirky characters, greatly memorable moments, and with some genuine heart, IItMTAY has now put Haber back in the line of MLP's great writers.

Not that I appreciate mean-spirited acts, but as many episodes have proven, they can be done right as long as they suit or fit what the situation is within them - or basically, if they were done by VILLAINS ONLY! And you may think Thunderlane's younger colt brother Rumble is extremely unlikable, but why do I appreciate him, and other characters in the season that others may NOT? The answer to that is what comes of him by the very end of Marks and Recreation. He just goes to show that some younger siblings just wanna follow their older siblings' footsteps (or hoovesteps in MLP's sense), and when he learns to try new things (much less know that there's more to him than just one simple thing, like flying), as shown via Recreation's moral. But even if Rumbleloo didn't take the opportunity to develop (like Rumble's character here did), nor Rumble actually getting his cutie mark for that matter, it's still great. Then again though, if either one of them DID happen, then it would've felt far too rushed and far too forced.

Rumble's song of wanting to remain a blank flank though? Admittedly catchy, if slightly forgettable...

Mike and Wil Fox for some reason or another went from a solid start in Season 6 via The Gift of the Maud Pie, to an unconventionally poor end what with Applejack's "Day" Off and especially P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View). But I guess the phrase "better luck next time" (or in this case "next season") kinda goes for every writer who took part in this series as much as it does for every potential season this series has yet to produce. Anyways, as a followup to Sisterhooves Social, and definitely Rartiy's big step to gaining major character mojo, Forever Filly is another episode of the series that you can label as adorable (like one other episode I'll be mentioning later on), and because of the sweet bonding we see Rarity and Sweetie Belle go through (as Rarity eventually learns of how growing sisters like her DESERVE to be treated), that's the main point of the FF's strong reception.

Forever Filly falls just short of my Top Ten now that I've finalized my list (at least at this point) since it was originally intended to stand amongst it, but since other episodes have just attracted my attention more, I feel it takes the honor as the highest honorable mention of the bunch...

Everfail was already a huge flop upon release on Netflix. So how do you fix it all up no matter how much shorter you have to make it? Hard to Say Anything, that's what! Now I know it's... well, hard for some of you to say anything good about this underrated gem what with Feather Bangs and his personality, and that it tries way too hard to be something reminiscent of Season 2's Hearts and Hooves Day, but the way I see it, it's a classic that anypony can get a good laugh out of, and does a much better job at its storyline than the worst possible thing to ever come out of the entire franchise. As awesome as it is however, that music battle song (where Big Mac and Feather Bangs both tried to win Sugar Belle's affection) is atrocious, and doesn't work unlike how Pinkie and Cheese's goof off (in Pinkie Pride) did. And while the SugarMac shipping is one I don't mind, my only message I have to give to the writers and crew of FIM is to leave the romantic shippings to US fans ONLY!

Anyways, it's always a good laugh when characters like Big Mac and Feather Bangs try to win Sugar Belle's affection, not to mention the Crusaders shine as wonderful as they always do (albeit their immature selves in Stare Master, and their less-than-tolerable portrayals in Just for Sidekicks and Make New Friends but Keep Discord). I could go on about it again, but I'll just let my review do all the talking...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

MLP:FIM - Worst to Best ~ Season 7 (Part 1)

Another season with a lineup of fantastic episodes, and surprisingly, a lesser amount of terrible ones, Season 7 has to be Friendship Is Magic's 2nd best season of the overall series - just right behind the near flawless Season 4. I haven't had much hope for it seeing how less than half decent Seasons 5 and 6 turned out to be, but as the saying truly goes for a lot of shows, better luck next year (or mostly in this case - next season). It's really hard for me to say a lot bad things about the season, but it HAS had its own fair share of sloppy installments. Even though it's only been ten days since Season 7's leaked finale aired on TV, it's time to celebrate the season from the very worst (around only 1/6 of the whole season) to the very best. So just like last year with Season 6, I'm ranking ALL of them here, and giving my full thoughts on all of them. So without further delay, let's start off with the worst, and rather decent installments - just so I can get to the very best.

Remember Amending Fences? Magical Mystery Cure? The Return of Harmony? Cause I'm not sure M.A. Larson does. His writing credits throughout the series has been precisely hit-or-miss. To the point where, in that sense, I'm wondering what's going through Mitch's head when he writes specific episodes and their morals. And in Fame and Misfortune's case, I was equally confused by his decision to make an insult on the fandom for who knows whatever reason. I mean yeah, everypony else who isn't a very popular character is supposed to be depicted as us in the fandom, but you know what? That's the way I see it as an insult. And you know what else? People like me do not (I repeat; DO NOT) need Larson to shove that factor right in my face to remind me that that's how I can be as well and shove its moral down my throat... especially since the way it's delivered plays out through quite possibly the worst song in MLP history: Flawless.

I don't care how much Larson admitted that it wasn't meant to be an insult on us older bronies and pegasisters (even after he dedicated Slice of Life to every adult fan), or how cool it was to introduce two new fillies that resemble a previous generation of the franchise (Toola Roola & Coconut Cream), Fame and Misfortune is literally worthless in every possible way. For being insult on us fans, mean-spirited acts from every townspony, and depicted us in the worst way possible, Misfortune not only gets labeled the worst episode of Season 7, but arguably one of the Top Ten Overall Worst also.

Way to go, Larson! 😠

By the time Season 7 was about to finish up, you could honestly tell somepony clearly wasn't thinking straight when coming up with the last few chapters, Hasbro. You wanna know how I know? Josh Hamilton not only turned Rainbow Dash into something a friend is clearly NOT for, but also made Pinkie go too far with some of her antics to make any of her real friends happy! Why does Rainbow Dash have to be a completely dishonest liar?! And why does Pinkie have to come up with one too many excuses to give her all those pies - let alone act like A TOTAL STALKER HERE?!

I get that Pinkie wants all of her friends to be happy, and I'll admit that I felt much sorrier for her than ever did for Rainbow "Dishonest Jerk" Dash, but even if Twilight and Applejack were nothing terrible here, does that add any positive reputation to the overall episode? No, it doesn't. I will admit that while Pinkie and Dashie have both done themselves justice throughout the season (especially Dashie considering she had some of the worst installments in Season 6), but I just can't even stand them in Secrets and Pies. And I may have said before that Josh Hamilton should be fired for this travesty, but to put it in a more appropriate manner, and this goes especially for every writer who DOES plan to write episodes for just ANY series in general; if you can't improve upon yourself for a third episode, then you shouldn't write anymore until you learn the simple steps of how a good (and watchable) episode actually works.

Oh, baby! Literally, if you thought Party Pooped was terrible, wait 'til you get a load of its equally atrocious sequel. And here's one of my messages to Hasbro if they're going to make Season 8 even better; please, do not bring back ANY detestable characters who felt DOA. Even if Pinkie wasn't anything OOC here, the yaks still don't make up for that. And I have heard that one yak will be in the next season premiere, but hopefully, that particular yak isn't an idiot like Rutherford and the rest of the yaks in Equestria are. But as for Not Asking for Trouble, it's nothing but everything you need to bring back Nick Confalone's first every episode all over again; yaks depicting themselves as annoying stereotypes, corny dialogue, a dull plot, boring pacing, and anything else that made Party Pooped atrocious. Writer May Chan has done better than this (which I'll get into later), but since I hate this so much that I want to forget about it completely... let's just move on!

Yup, instead of having neutral feelings for it, I really just dislike All Bottled Up nowadays. I mean I have made myself pretty clear when I said I hated Starlight after the Season 5 finale, but while she is one of those small exceptions in the basic episode itself, it's her partner-in-crime Trixie that's my main problem. And truth be told, Bottled's moral of letting out your anger instead of hiding it was a true lesson for audiences to take to heart, and, like I said, Starlight was handled greatly as a lovable character. The Mane Six's part on the other hand are as terrible as Trixie herself. Cause let me ask you this; What was the point of that song they sung that reminds us of their friendship that we already know of in the first place?!

I mean I get that the Mane Six are still the best of friends to the very end, but why do we need to be reminded of it via a random and unnecessary song? I must admit that Bulk Biceps, Granny Smith, and that jeweler pony effected by Starlight's anger are pretty interesting when they go all crazy and everything, but that's just what was rightfully come of Trixie. And that's just what makes this moral reasonably good. So on Starlight's part and All Bottled Up's moral; fantastic. The Mane Six's act and Trixie however; unbearable!

I'll give Uncommon Bond one thing: Starlight comes out as sympathetic when she lacks anything in common with her friend Sunburst nowadays. And the moral isn't half bad unlike the three weakest of the overall season. Otherwise however, Trixie, Twilight, and Maud really don't help as they overshadow Sunburst for the most part. I must admit Sunburst isn't necessarily a bad character like Rainbow Dash's parents (more on them later), but it's more of the fact that his development was kinda misused. Look, I get that he's supposed to be Starlight's childhood friend since right before her stupid reason for going all evil-minded, but the problem of his development not working is that wasn't that realistic and was clearly dumbed-down unlike any backstory of the Mane Six (or even the Apple Siblings' parents). There's nothing wrong with bringing Sunburst back for more episodes, but if you're gonna do it, don't have other characters we've already come to love over the past several years interfere with his time to shine.

Oh well, good luck next season, Sunburst... I guess.

Josh Hamilton as a writer really hasn't done as good as he could have throughout anything he's ever written so far. Another case and point of his writing is another one of FIM's average Cutie Map-themed episode after Season 5's The Hooffields and McColts, known as Triple Threat. Thorax and Ember's relationship of getting along can be pretty interesting, and it may be just me, but other than the three worst of the overall season, this season's library of morals in its episodes generally do so well. And Threat's moral teaching you to help one another, whether or not you're in the same culture as the other is clear prof of that. Spike on the other hand kinda should've known a little better than the mistakes he made here, but regardless, his role might have come off as pointless by the end, but by no means could the same be said for his untouched characterization.

Ember's still awesome for her great personality whilst Thorax is forever disappointing for his awful arc, but I won't go far as rant strongly about Triple Threat. Still an okay episode by my standards...

For any of you Glideance fans out there, hear me out. Not that I don't have any respect for Rainbow Dash's parents (Windy Whistles and Bow Hothoof) as they actually have tolerable standards to their personalities (unlike those stereotypical, loathsome yaks), but it's their constant obsession and fanboying traits of their own daughter that make them average characters, rather than some I actually want to connect with. Scootaloo remains a solid character throughout, not to mention Rainbow Dash herself (and thankfully, the Wonderbolts also), even if her snapping at her parents for all that fanboying seems a little unwatchable, but the plot does have some nice charms to it also. Like when Rainbow Dash's parents in her backstory drive her to success, which really just goes to show that you should never take your parents' love and support of you for granted.

And speaking of not taking your parents for granted, Parental Glideance's moral is also solid that it's kinda better suited for the storyline than RD's parents Windy and Bow are. I also have to give it credit for bringing good mojo back to the Wonderbolts (especially for their leader Spitfire), considering how terribly sadistic and unlikable they all were in an early Season 6 failure that I shall not name here. I respect Hamilton for not derailing the Wonderbolts, but he could've made Dashie's parents a little less obsessive of their own daughter... at best, PG is what I like to call "a weird one."

Along with Dungeons & Discords in the previous season, Rock Solid Friendship has to be the only other exception to Nick Confalone's rather dull writing. That still really isn't saying much, although I will admit that doesn't effect just how reasonably admirable RSF is. I mean Maud has always been a likable character (with or without emotion), but I question why we can't focus the rest of Pinkie's family for at least another episode or two considering Confalone really hasn't added much personality to them back in Hearthbreakers (another episode written by Nick, ironically). Anyways, Pinkie might be a little over-reactive to Maud choosing between Ponyville and someplace else in Equestria, but she still puts on a good portrayal of her character. And Starlight? Great as well, not to mention interesting when she develops a relationship with Maud.

At this point, Confalone at best is a writer who's just trying to stay out of trouble with writing for the show considering the yaks made Party Pooped cheesy, and Twilight in No Second Prances was hypocritically terrible, but if he can actually make a favorable episode for me in Season 8, then I'll be surprised when it DOES happen, but on the flipside, the fact that it'll be his first episode that I favor won't be so surprising.

I really can't rewatch Honest Apple for Applejack's hurtful honesty since, as the saying goes, if you don't have anything nice to say, just don't say it, and Rarijack episodes are kinda getting a little overused. But admittedly, that doesn't mean they can't be good. Sure, AJ's honesty is hurtful and unwatchable as I said, but I also gotta admit, it does serve a purpose in the overall plot. Plus, Photo Finish is more interesting here than she was in Season 1's Green Isn't Your Color, let alone the fact that Honest Apple is slightly better. And I can say the same about Hoity Toity, since he was admittedly an interesting character in Suited for Success in the show's first season, but not necessarily one of the all time greatest of the series.

If I'm going to be honest here though, this should honestly be the last Rarijack episode, and the writers should widen out with more collabs; like more of PinkieSparkle, or Rainbowty, or more of my two personal favorites of the Mane Six after both this season, and their shining roles in Viva Las Pegasus; Flutterjack. So... Honest Apple is a nice touch to Season 7, but I just found several others to be more interesting.