Monday, September 25, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - A Health of Information (S7, E20, P153, OE163)

Above even Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy has now become the most well developed character of Friendship Is Magic since Season 6. After may big hits onward, including some of Fluttershy's most underrated outings like Flutter Brutter and Fluttershy Leans In, and even the awesome Discordant Harmony, Fluttershy's characterization has been supercharged to more limits with A Health of Information. And after its predecessor It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, Zecora got another major role within Information considering she's undeniably one of MLP's most underdeveloped characters. And as the seasons go by, even with everything after Scare Master, Fluttershy's episodes just keep on developing her. And AHoI is no exception.

While helping Fluttershy gather supplies in a swamp, Zecora contracts a rare and terrible disease called Swamp Fever that threatens to eventually turn her into a tree, for which no cure is known. Holding herself responsible for Zecora's condition, Fluttershy vows to heal her as quickly as possible, no matter what it takes. After much sleepless searching, Fluttershy finds a special, remedial bee honey first discovered by her idol, the legendary healer Mage Meadowbrook. By this time, Fluttershy contracts Swamp Fever as well, but she continues to push herself for Zecora's sake until she ultimately passes out for three days due to extreme exhaustion during a confrontation with the territorial bees. A rested Fluttershy reflects that her careless determination has only endangered Zecora, so she enacts a careful plan to extract the honey using Meadowbrook's mask as a disguise, successfully treating Zecora and herself.

As the newer ideas for Season 7 episodes air on and on, the season itself gets stronger as these new episodes just keep on saving the series next to no extent. A Health of Information backs this up with spot on portrayals from Fluttershy and Zecora, with Twilight to leave a major highlight on the plot as well. A well paced story to give backstory of the Mage Meadowbrook, not to mention the recently introduced Cattail who may not seem as memorable as Meadowbrook herself, but he still adds good charm to the overall story. Fluttershy does so well on her part, even if she does seem a bit weird at points, but we all know that purpose is for her to keep working until she fulfills her promise to heal Zecora. Twilight does good too thanks to not going OOC or being really random in her development like in Season 6, and even the personas of Mage Meadowbrook and Cattail add great quality to A Health of Information's already strong reception via its plot and storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, Information's pacing tells it out brilliantly and doesn't make it too blatant even if things like Fluttershy's failed stare attempt seemed a little too predictable. And as the story goes on, it just gets more gripping as we learn more about the cure for Swamp Fever, not to mention Fluttershy and Twilight's true development - even if Zecora didn't get quite enough (but hey, at least she played a major role even if it was for less than half the whole plot). Visuals and layout of the flash bees seem freaky and not something too new, but that's made up for by the village Twilight and Fluttershy come to. There are plenty of good humorous moments from the main characters here throughout, but none I can really discuss other than some good slapstick moments of Fluttershy's tiredness.

Backed up a wonderful, endearing story, another good friendship moral to take into consideration of taking care of yourself if you also want to take care of others, which was just superb, spot on character portrayals, a new neat concept, and plenty of great humorous moments, A Health of Information delivers more than enough powerful development for Fluttershy and Twilight, with lots of good moments to keep coming back to. It's definitely one of Fluttershy's best episodes, and hopefully there's more of Zecora and other underrated & underdeveloped characters for potential installments to come.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - It Isn't the Mane Thing About You (S7, E19, P152, OE162)

Rarity's episodes have often succeeded as with pretty much the rest of the Mane Six. Now that we have another Season 7 episode It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, it feels like writer Josh Haber has done wonders for himself after all the flops he had in Seasons 5 & 6. I mean he's made his flops that were either disturbingly unwatchable (Bloom & Gloom), or just downright boring (The Crystalling), but now that Season 7 happened, it seems he's done himself good justice... unlike M.A. Larson with the fandom-insulting Fame and Misfortune.

Rarity gets her mane ruined by Pinkie Pie's sticky party string before an important photo shoot. Zecora gives Rarity a specially made shampoo, but Rarity accidentally takes an identical remover potion intended for Pinkie's mess instead, and she loses most of her mane in the shower. While Zecora works on a remedy, Rarity is devastated when other ponies fail to notice her as she hides her mane out of shame. Zecora later tells Rarity that a magical fix for her mane is impossible, and her friends cannot make her a suitable wig in time, so she reluctantly cancels the shoot. Reminded by her friends that her mane does not define who she is, Rarity refashions her thinned mane into a punk-inspired look and confidently returns to her daily routine. Months later, after Rarity's mane has fully grown back, she is delighted to discover her friends had arranged a paparazzi shoot with her in her punk style, starting a new fashion trend.

Seriously, could Rarity's funny faces get anymore hilarious than this?

What sets It Isn't the Mane Thing About You is its fresher concept and storyline than Haber's episodes in the last two seasons. Rarity gives herself a solid performance for the plot and never feels too OOC during her development throughout the pacing. Speaking of which, the plot's pacing itself is well done with no plot points that leave much to be desired - other than Pinkie's idea for a "sneeze-aversary", but that's obviously beside the point. But that's also the one small problem with briefly leading up to her and Rarity's messed up manes. Then again though, we wouldn't have a complete plot that makes for some good fun and humor.

There have been lots of memorable moments that Rarity has provided, along with the rest of her friends, even if they aren't too big of a deal for the overall plot. Rarity's craziness in a strong desire to get a perfect mane back makes her more and more humorous without making IItMTAY too uncomfortable to watch. Even if the rest of the Mane Six - minus Pinkie - feel a little off at times where they aren't really characters of the story you'd tend to focus on, they still do excellent jobs at portraying themselves like they're meant to be.

When it comes to the moral of learning to not rely on appearances, delivering it is where It Isn't the Mane Thing About You does a solid job with delivering it across the plot. Rarity's new mane is also a rockin' edition to make her part more interesting as to also making the moral good. Other than the weird reasoning of Pinkie's method to accidentally messing up her and Rarity's manes, and how confusing everyone in Ponyville was to Rarity hiding her mane under a hood since, you know, anyone can easily tell by her skin color and voice (and even her eyes via her bottom and top eyelashes), but on the very brightside, that's not to say it bogs the positive things about the episode down completely. In fact, I feel Rarity and Zecora alone do it some much needed justice.

As a breath of fresh air from Haber's previous iffy installments after Season 4, and in a fortunate turn of events, It Isn't the Mane Thing About You goes in the right way of MLP potential and Haber's scripts, and with Fluttershy's character developing once more next week (not to mention bringing Zecora back surprisingly), Season 7 is sure get the rest of its episodes right in spite of May Chan and M.A. Larson's installments within the season cause this ultimately comes out as one you wouldn't mind rewatching.

Monday, September 11, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Daring Done? (S7, E18, P151, OE161)

After Season 6's greatest episode (arguably) that is Stranger Than Fan Fiction, episodes with Daring Do playing a major role got even better and better following Season 2's Read It and Weep, and Season 4's Daring Don't. And joined by Top Bolt, the same could also be said for Rainbow Dash - despite her terrible derailment in 28 Pranks Later after Newbie Dash became an absolute insult on her character via the Wonderbolts' sadistic personalities. Now that Season 7's first half has passed, and with a promo that showcased a glimpse of it nonetheless, we're given a fourth installment for the Indiana Jones-inspired character, known as Daring Done?. Normally episodes tend to make a season as spot on as possible without destroying much of its positive reputation, but just as one might have expected (besides me of course), Done is something completely different.

Rainbow Dash is distressed when she and Pinkie Pie discover that A.K. Yearling has announced her retirement from writing the Daring Do book series, thus ending her adventures as the titular hero. When the two confront her, Yearling explains that she has grown disheartened over the collateral damage her heroics have caused, resulting in her being despised by the public. The two take Yearling to make amends in the city of Somnambula, where they discover that her nemesis Dr. Caballeron has been using Daring Do's tarnished reputation as a cover to commit thefts and blame them on her. When Rainbow Dash speaks in Daring Do's defense, Caballeron holds her hostage and lures Daring Do into a trap. Encouraged by Pinkie not to lose hope, Yearling rescues Rainbow Dash and ends her retirement, regaining public support by exposing Caballeron's deception and using her wealth to repair the city damages.

It's undeniable that Daring Do episodes have earn strong reputation for being good (even if Daring Don't seems rather underrated). The first part I must praise and point out for Done is its excellent visuals and new ideal concept as a sequel to all three previous installments of Daring Do, and all of which came as a fresh idea without being cliched in any manner with a great throwback villain to add to the plot's adventurous theme. Speaking of the plot, Done's is absolutely praiseworthy in every conceivable way, thanks in large part to the very backstory of Somnambula on her journey to Prince Hisan within the ruins of the pyramid, and even Pinkie's and Daring Do's roles work expertly here also. The pacing is done very well as you can always expect in a good MLP episode, and there's really no faults with the series of events during the plot points throughout Daring Do's journey (with her disguise as A.K. Yearling) with our two main Mane Six characters. (Pinkie and Rainbow Dash)

Getting to Dr. Caballeron's role, as I said, he's always a welcome edition as a villain, even if a little more action is left to be desired, not to mention that sometimes you'd want a new villain in store for anymore future Daring Do episodes. But in the end, Caballeron and his role back more than enough of Daring Done?'s positive reception and reputation up. The moral works incredibly well too, and is one of the best to teach all audiences when you are in situations where giving up is never the right option, and is truly a friendship lesson of complete encouragement. As well as that, we get a great cold open intro to introduce us the main elements of the episode's primary plot point where RD and Pinkie must search for A.K. Yearling and encourage her to never lose her hope (just as the moral would teach you), which only adds more strength to Done?'s stellar storyline.

With another intriguing, yet masterfully executed story, wonderful and quirky characters (with more than enough charisma and personality), spectacular action throughout the plot (which is just as up there with the likes of Gauntlet of Fire), another great moral to encourage you to never lose hope nor give up no matter how some people may (falsely) mistreat you, not to mention an ending climax that suits its moral well far after its awesome opening sequence before it's gripping storyline, there's more than enough fun to be had here. As perfect as Read It and Weep was, Daring Done? is more than just a solid masterpiece for a character who already seems to fascinate a lot of Indiana Jones fans, it's definitely a rewatchable one at that. Even for those who aren't huge fans of Pinkie, Rainbow Dash, or Daring Do herself, it's definitely my recommendation that they take a shot at this chapter of perfection.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - To Change a Changeling (S7, E17, P150, OE160)

Thorax has been considered a popular character amongst the fandom after his (cliched) reformed design in the badly timed To Where and Back Again. In fact (this is just me at least but), to make a little comparison between Thorax's episodes and movie franchises, Thorax's story arc felt a bit like the DC Extended Universe where The Times They Are A Changeling was his Man of Steel (only Man of Steel as a film (in spite of its divisiveness amongst both fans and critics alike) was done better than TTTAAC was as an MLP episode) whilst TWaBA was his (and the show's) Suicide Squad. If we switched Squad and Dawn of Justice around though, that's also where Triple Threat would be his Batman v Superman. And whilst BvS:DoJ failed as a film, Threat was at least NEAR half-decent as an episode of Friendship Is Magic. With To Change a Changeling in Season 7 however, it's exactly Thorax's Wonder Woman where its surprisingly good for his own arc.

During a visit to the Changeling Kingdom, Starlight Glimmer and Trixie are attacked by Thorax's unreformed brother, Pharynx, who refuses to adopt the hive's new, peaceful ways. The other changelings feel uneasy around Pharynx and elect that he be banished from the hive for his ceaseless bullying. Starlight and Trixie agree, but when they confront Thorax over the issue, he is reluctant because Pharynx would always defend him from being teased by the other changelings. Starlight is inspired to lure a maulwurf, a giant bear-mole creature, to the hive, expecting Pharynx to come to Thorax's rescue in an act of brotherly love, only to find that Pharynx has already left of his own volition. Starlight, Trixie, and Thorax find him fending off the maulwurf to protect the hive, proving that he still cares for the changelings' safety. After working together to defeat the monster, Pharynx is accepted by the other changelings and transforms.

Considering Thorax's story arc failed more miserably in Season 6 than Starlight's, any episodes he got centered around him came out in the end as flops, to the point where I myself had no hope for his character whatsoever. With To Change a Changeling however, things have made a turn for the better for Thorax. It's all paced out brilliantly even if any of Thorax's previous attempts that failed utterly make a reference or two throughout the plot, with characterization that's even impressive as Pharynx himself as a character. There's even more great and memorable moments that only add to Season 7's charm, with some of my personal favorites being Thorax's and Pharynx's backstories, and even the scene where the two brothers fight off that monstrous maulwurf towards the end.

What also adds to its good qualities how good Starlight is portrayed in her role, even if Trixie's status as a character amongst me is untouched as she still remains on the uninteresting and irritating side. The other downside is the changelings themselves lacked explanation with any real backstories of their own (and no, I don't count those that have appeared in Thorax and Pharynx's flashback to their old days), and it's also confusing when they say they aren't all related, but I kinda digress that as I feel they're a certain species who should all be related in some biological manner. The plot may not be the most entertaining of the season, but it's backed up by great characterization from our main character (even if I have no care about Trixie now), and even a great moral of not forcing anyone to change their ways (considering there's more to them than just a personality), which only adds more and more to its strong reception.

In an unexpected turn of events, To Change a Changeling comes out as a welcome edition to Season 7, and it definitely stands out as Thorax's best episode to date - although that isn't saying much. With superb animation and visuals, even with the malwurf Thorax and Pharynx fight off, great characterization and development for both changelings, and Starlight shining once more as with every other previous Season 7 episode she succeeded in, there's more where sloppy characters become likable, albeit maybe Trixie to an extent based on her annoying personality. So while it's not perfect based on Thorax's story arc having a major effect on it, TCaC is a breath of fresh air from The Times They Are A Changeling, and hopefully there will be more potential in store for Thorax's arc - without with or the other changelings and his brother - considering how surprisingly good of an installment To Change a Changeling turned out to be.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Campfire Tales (S7, E16, P149, OE159)

At the height of its promotion on Discovery Family, Campfire Tales lacked the main details of its plot when showing only the very beginning of its storyline. Alongside possibly Daring Done at the time, both episodes based on their description of plots before airing sounded very promising. Now that that potential has aired for Tales - which you could most definitely call it a sequel to Sleepless in Ponyville - I feel all of it has been lived up to, and is definitely a far cry from the season's previous chapters that turned out to be either insultingly sloppy (Fame and Misfortune), or predictably average (Triple Threat), not to mention it's a true breath of fresh air (with a much better reputation for good Season 7 quality) as I expected it to be.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders' big-little sister camping trip with Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash is ruined when a swarm of fly-ders infests the camp. Taking refuge in a cave, the older mares decide to pass the time by telling the fillies each of their favorite legends. First, Applejack tells of Rockhoof, a scrawny stallion who grew in size and strength while digging a moat for a volcano to protect his village. Next, Rarity tells of Mistmane, a unicorn sorceress who sacrificed her youth and beauty to redeem an embittered friend. Finally, Rainbow Dash tells of Flash Magnus, a pegasus cadet who braved terrifying dragons with a fireproof shield to rescue his comrades. After the fly-ders leave, the fillies are inspired by the tales to make the best of their camping trip.

A colorful episode in both its plot and visuals, Campfire Tales lives up to all the hype that I've been hoping for to a near perfect experience. Thanks to its new idea in all three tales from the three Mane Six sisters (if we consider Rainbow Dash to be at least LIKE, if not technically a biological sister to Scootaloo- go figure) they tell to their younger sisters, along with brilliant pacing for each story - even if some fans felt there was more to be desired - and heartwarming relationships between them all. From Applejack's tale of Rockhoof's determination to save a village, to Rarity's tale of Mistmane sacrificing her own beauty for her hideous sister, not to mention the best tale from Rainbow Dash telling of Flash Magnus saving his comrades from two vicious dragons, there's just no reason to see Tales as something dull.

If I did have at least a downside or two, it's that brief nitpick of those bug bites on all six of our main characters which really raises the question as to how they went away so fast. (Do ponies have special skin in Equestria, or is just magic?) Adding to its imperfection just slightly is why they never thought about taking the other cave right by them in the first place, but then again, we wouldn't get some creative stories out of three of the show's main characters (of the Mane Six). But those nitpicks are at least made up for by the fantastic tales the narrative tries to focus on during the pacing after the cold open sequence and just before the ending.

Powerful small stories all in one episode, and their new ideas put aside, the characters have all been done greatly in their portrayals during storytelling, and the episode comes to a very good end just to make its plot even more similar to its predecessor of Season 3. The moral not being told is another downside, which is a big shame considering most of the time it comes across in words after characters learn them. But looking past those small grudges, Campfire Tales comes out as a near flawless experience from start to finish, and should certainly inspire the writers to keep a new sense of ideas and storytellings into mind based on how much stronger Season 7 seems to be becoming.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Triple Threat (S7, E15, P148, OE158)

Ever since Season 5, friendship problem-themed episodes have become something of a highlight on My Little Pony's subject matter that is of teaching audiences several lessons of friendship. After the surprising success of Starlight's friendship mission of a plot just five episodes earlier that is A Royal Problem, Josh Hamilton has now given Spike his own mission on Twilight's castle Cutie Map. And does it fair better than Hamilton's previous attempt when he introduced Rainbow Dash's parents in Parental Glideance? Well, I wouldn't exactly say so since I don't think there's been a change in his status of writing storylines (at least in terms of my own personal thoughts/reception on him).

Spike invites Dragon Lord Ember to Ponyville for an official friendship meeting, forgetting that he has already invited Thorax for a get-together on the same day. When both guests arrive, Spike fears the two will not get along and decides to keep them separate. After this happens, the Cutie Map reacts to Spike and alerts him of a friendship problem in Ponyville, and he begins avoiding Ember and Thorax to find it. Ember angrily confronts Spike for his suspicious behavior, causing Thorax to threaten her in Spike's defense. Spike is forced to reveal his deception to both of his friends, deeply upsetting them. After the two help each other work out their respective leadership problems, however, Ember and Thorax become friends and forgive Spike, fulfilling his friendship mission.

As two characters, Thorax hasn't done himself any real favors after The Times They Are A Changeling's ending screwed the episode's otherwise decent plotline up - leading up to a character's story arc that felt irreparable during production throughout Season 6. And while Josh Hamilton has tried to give him better development here, it still hasn't done many favors since I'm afraid the damage has already been done badly enough after Josh Haber and Mike Vogel aired To Where and Back Again a little too soon as Season 6's finale, instead of holding back until the next season or two onward from now. Getting to Ember on the other hand, she's been done greatly in Dragon Quest's fixed up Season 6 reboot; Gauntlet of Fire - thanks largely in part to her character not being depicted as strongly stereotypical with racism. And her part here makes her development so spot on, that it feels very untouchable to effect the quality in her current character.

Whilst I can't say Spike's portrayal throughout has done any better, he didn't do all too well, as he became rather pointless, and his development throughout the series should've added to the fact that he's already learned from his mistakes from the past (but then again we wouldn't get the episode's moral where he learns another lesson but still). As well as that for a grudge, if you thought the plot would be all so exciting, well you'd be denied really - since the built up fight between Ember and Thorax doesn't actually happen and as a result, this makes the plot rather predictable in not allowing this series to go all violent even with fictional creatures. The moral on the other where you should always help one another whether or not you're in the same culture as another person in society is certainly one lesson to be taught. So while the storyline went at least somewhere with character development, Ember still remains excellent whilst Thorax sadly hasn't been supercharged into something better, and is still just a character who needs a better story arc than he ever had in the previous season... maybe even a restart for a change.

I won't say Triple Threat doesn't have its own problems, as all episodes do (even those I give a perfect rating), but at the same time I won't call it anything terrible. There is good development within Ember, and her bondage with Thorax seems like an interesting trait - but what doesn't help is Thorax's part not being improved from his old self based on how bad his arc was since The Times They Are A Changeling. Adding to the episode's downsides come from how predictable its ending turned out to be, although thankfully on Ember's part, as a dragon, no racism was depicted like in Dragon Quest, - which is something you at least have to give some credit to - and that's really saying something. And while Twilight and Starlight's parts were untouched as they remained likable, Spike was not at his best here as I think he knew better than he did despite Threat not being filled to the brim with character derailment in any of our three main character's character roles.

Animation and sound are all spot on as usual, but the important thing to judge for all my reviews are of course the story, the characters, and the moral within the plot. Triple Threat does provide a superb moral and Ember making her reappearance here is a welcome edition to the series after just well done she was portrayed in Gauntlet of Fire. So whilst I won't be too harsh on Threat, a plot like this and its development on the characters just goes to show that while he isn't exactly terrible in his writing, Josh Hamilton ultimately comes out as writer who needs some more time to improve upon his writing (with maybe a little help from an expert writer or two within the crew) considering I view any of his work so far as fairly average.

Monday, August 21, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Fame and Misfortune (S7, E14, P147, OE157)

Amending Fences writer M.A. Larson's episode often tend to be hit-or-miss based on how he tends to deliver morals and send messages to audiences towards the very end of each one. He may have blown our minds with other great installments like the Season 3 finale (Magical Mystery Cure) and especially the Season 2 premiere (The Return of Harmony), but while he hasn't done himself any justice with mediocre outings like Swarm of the Century and The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, there has been at least a misstep or two for him along the way with mean-spirited catastrophes like the ever-so-convoluted Ponyville Confidential, and Season 5's waste-of-space "100th special" known as Slice of Life. So how does his unexpected new outing in Season 7 fair from the reset now that he's unexpected come back for the series? Well for my liking... it really didn't do him any wonders whatsoever as far as trying to put him on the line of "stellar" writers.

After an encounter with two feuding fillies, Twilight Sparkle decides to publish her and her friends' shared friendship journal to help other ponies learn the lessons written inside. The journal becomes a success, but the six friends' entries have unintended reactions: Rarity is insulted by ponies who find her selfish and insincere; Pinkie Pie is laughed at for her every word; Rainbow Dash is followed by fans who fixate solely on her entries; Fluttershy is criticized for her inconsistent assertiveness; Applejack is swamped by admirers who consider themselves a part of the Apple family; and Twilight is regarded as less interesting due to her princesshood. Confronted by a mob who bicker over which pony is the best, the six friends try to convince them that their flaws are what make their friendship strong, but the mob ponies only continue to argue. Twilight bemoans the journal's misinterpretation until Starlight Glimmer finds the two fillies from before, who tell Twilight that the journal was able to help them become better friends, which satisfies the six friends.

As if Not Asking for Trouble during Season 7's first half wasn't DOA enough, Fame and Misfortune only proved (at least) me (and a few other fans) wrong by making a plot that does nothing but confuse and mock us all in the fandom. Although the Mane Six and Starlight give solid performances along with another exception being the two fillies (Toola Roola and Coconut Cream), the biggest problem I think we all have with the characters that make their appearances here are EVERYPONY ELSE throughout Equestria. We have ponies who slander about Rarity, one too many so-called "Apples" (in the Apple family) admiring Applejack a little too much, and Rainbow Dash and Twilight being idolized. And Pinkie not feeling so offended when she gets laughed at be everypony else around her, or Fluttershy standing up against everypony around her for assertiveness and not crying like Rarity has done certainly didn't help the storyline either.

As if all of the other ponies portrayals weren't bad enough, we get another terrible and unnecessary song at the very end that both confused me and disgusted me from the start; Flawless. And that's particularly based on its terrible lyrics that sound nothing like a bunch preachy words to let people know that nopony's perfect, but being that way makes your and friendships what they are. Although I feel that's been sung by the Mane Six for all the wrong reasons. The plot itself even seems only like something random when it comes to the idea of just wanting to spread a book full of friendship problems the show's main characters learned - cause who needs to read through book of problems immediately before they happen when sometimes you can just make the mistake yourself to see what it feels like and change from it before you ever do it again? And don't even get me started on the confusing moral. Cause it makes no sense, and rather just makes fun of us fans.

Slice of Life may be worse by my standards based on how much more random developing characters and plot pacing seemed, but that doesn't mean Fame and Misfortune could be considered "good". So while two newly introduced fillies who seem like a couple characters from one of MLP's older generations seem interesting, not to mention the Mane Six's and Starlight's portrayals throughout the episode were well-done, neither of these are backed up by the cold-hearted portrayals of everypony else who receives a copy of Twilight's friendship journal, and a plot, moral, and especially the show's new worst song IMO that only make things worse. Those who haven't given it a watch could take a shot to see if their opinion ends up considering FaM a good installment, but if any newcomer in the fandom wants my advice; consider skipping out on this one!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - The Perfect Pear (S7, E13, P146, OE156)

Ever since wanting to more of Applejack's character and her family, besides her siblings and grandmother, all of us have been strongly anticipating to find out more about the Apple family's parents. Faust stated before that the status of them are that they're dead, but now that we're in Season 7, with such a very, very touching storyline involving a backstory of the two and how they eventually came to love each other to the full as a love story, The Perfect Pear would be something of Romeo and Juliet and (what most consider to be) THE saddest episode of Rugrats (which I haven't exactly seen yet); Mother's Day combined, with a little My Little Pony slapped all over them. And with "Perfect" in the title, I feel it's THE perfect episode of the whole season.

Apple Bloom encounters a kindly old pear merchant named Grand Pear in the market. When she tells Applejack and Big McIntosh about it, they tell her about a long-standing feud between the Apple and Pear families that Granny Smith refuses to talk about. Visiting Goldie Delicious for more information, the siblings discover that their mother, Buttercup, was Grand Pear's daughter, originally named Pear Butter. Through stories told by friends of their parents, the siblings learn about the star-crossed romance between Pear Butter and their father, Bright Mac, which is complicated by Grand Pear's plans to move his family away from Ponyville. Bright Mac and Pear Butter hold a secret wedding ceremony that is discovered by their disapproving parents as soon as they are married. Pear Butter asserts her place with the Apple family and cuts ties with Grand Pear when he refuses to accept their love. In the present, the Apple siblings arrange a meeting between Granny Smith and the now remorseful Grand Pear, allowing their estranged grandparents to reconcile.

Episodes in Friendship Is Magic haven't got more than emotional enough since Amending Fences in Season 5, but at first glance, in an unbelievably - if not too surprising - turn of events, The Perfect Pear is something completely different. Love stories don't tend to interest me either, and when you look at my taste in film, any flick in the romance genre (outside of maybe a few animated movies like Pixar's WALL-E) other than last year's La La Land just don't earn me over enough. Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco's most recent script involving the Apple siblings' parents is about as gripping of a heartbreaking story as a lot of animated Disney movies can be. As usual, we've been given INCREDIBLE portrayals from every memorable major character in the episode; particularly Felicia Day's performance as Applejack's, Big Mac's, and Apple Bloom's mother Pear Butter and, as much as I hate to admit it only based on his harsh relationship he often has with both his fans and co-workers, William Shatner as Grand Pear for obvious good reasons.

Since some backstory between both parents is what many of us have waited for, the story that paces along the 22 minutes of the episode's run time has been done expertly that it never feels poorly timed with any particular moments of the various events of the backstory, and in that sense it never effects the plot's perfection to any extent. With even more heartfelt moments than other episodes have ever had in the past several seasons throughout, there's lots for me to mention here. We also get another amazing, if slightly short song (with a long bizarre title nonetheless) by Pear Butter that only adds more and more emotion to the episode that really breaks the heart enough to where you'd need major time to recover from it; "You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song". (Seriously, it makes The Mane Attraction's The Magic Inside by Applejack's friend Coloratura sound like pure happiness. Yikes!) In fact, you know those scenes where the Apples' parents are often pulled away by Germain and Shatner's elderly characters, not to mention all the love they've shown for each other before their secret wedding? Yeah, that makes other moments like Moon Dancer's and Rainbow Dash's breakdowns (Amending Fences and Tanks for the Memories) look like NOTHING!

It should be noted that I now rank it as my 4th favorite episode of the whole series, and to be clear on why three others still stand above it; Pinkie Pride made a brony back in July 2014 - meaning I wouldn't have joined the fandom without it via Weird Al Yankovic's performance as my favorite pony of the series; Cheese Sandwich, Stranger Than Fan Fiction solely connects the fandom and the show together strongly considering it's clearly based off our brony conventions (not to mention Patton Oswalt's stellar performance as THE hilarious Quibble Pants), and Twilight's Kingdom? Pfft. For obvious reasons I don't think I need to recap here. A few other episodes I could consider with Pear is that it puts even Crusaders of the Lost Mark to shame having to finally show Applejack's parents, making it something more anticipating at some points than the CMCs getting their cutie marks, and that it makes any other sad installments like Fences look like something happy (as I said), but that's about all I can really name about its accomplishments over other episodes.

Positive reception aside, you have to wonder though, because of Faust's statement on them being deceased; how exactly did they kick the bucket? A sacrifice to save their children? A terminal illness? And I don't blame Lewis & Songco for not giving us a proper statement, but couldn't Faust have explained at least some of it for the fandom? So as a nitpick, that's the only grudge I think we all would have with the episode as that's really the only thing that leaves a bit to be desired, but if we get a future episode that'll explain it - assuming Faust will give us an update sometime soon as to their unexpected, yet unexplained deaths - who knows? If the status of the Apple parents change from deceased to missing, kinda like some Finding Dory plotline figure (where Dory's on a quest to search for her parents somewhere beyond the ocean), I won't really be surprised, but I do get that feeling that could be equally as touched as I truly felt with The Perfect Pear.

Without a doubt, The Perfect Pear stands out as MLP's best episode of Season 7, and obviously its new winner for the category of sad episodes, and not without reason. Keeping the reception strongly positive with flawless performances by Felicia Day as Pear Butter, and (unexpectedly) William Shatner as Grand Pear, even if Bright Mac's mysterious voice actor Bill Newton does make his character memorably sympathetic and lovable as both Pear Butter and Grand Pear in general without even making the voice actor himself stand out as being recognizable as Day & Shatner, he still gives a solid performance as the Apple sibling's father to date. With it's script being just as perfected as the episode's title would fortunately suggest via all the emotion that comes from its Romeo and Juliet-like backstory of the parents, another great song (which I might just have to consider to be my new overall favorite of the series) sung by Day, powerful pacing, and of course, the excellent moral that's basically telling you to not hold on to grudges, The Perfect Pear is as perfect of an episode as you can ever get in any newer seasons after Season 4, and it's everything you need to make a chapter that just adds more and more potential of near flawlessness to an already superb season.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Discordant Harmony (S7, E12, P145, OE155)

It should be pathetically obvious that Discord's my all time favorite MLP character. It should also come as no surprise that everyone who wrote for him minus Neal Dusedau did excellent jobs to make him portray his usual comedic self, without being obnoxious in the wrong way, or making other ponies feel terrible for missing out on something (hey there, What About Discord?). Now that the Fox brothers took a shot at him, I feel they've done themselves even more wonders after their previous outstanding effort in the season, Forever Filly. And while they have gone a little downhill after their first script in Season 6 The Gift of the Maud Pie, (with Applejack's "Day" Off and P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)) there's more potential in store for them now their newest episodes have never ceased to impress me.

After joining Fluttershy for another tea party, Discord realizes he has never invited her for tea before, and extends the invitation. While shopping for supplies, Discord encounters Pinkie Pie, who suggests that he should make sure to have a party that Fluttershy will like to enjoy herself. Discord takes upon himself to change himself and his home in his realm to be much more normal in appeal to Fluttershy. When Fluttershy arrives, she sees that Discord is fading away, unable to make chaos. She rectifies the situation by creating chaos for him, while helps to restore him to normal. She reminds him that they get along so well because they are so different, and she was hoping to have a tea party under Discord's chaotic setting rather than one like her own. The two enjoy a chaotic tea party together.

Thanks to its strong humor and realistically stellar storyline, there's plenty to praise about Discordant Harmony by Mike & Wil Fox. There's lots of good moments to make you laugh with absolute joy; from the new editions of what Discord does with his chaotic magic what with moments like his right lion fingers eating cucumber sandwiches during his tea party with Fluttershy, to other scenes where he often talks to himself (something of which I can strongly relate to), it's hard not to get hooked on its gripping plot. Of course, the story keeps adding to Discord's character and Fluttershy's as well, not to mention it helps him move on a lot farther from his only failure of an installment back in Season 5. At first, I heard some MLP Wikia user originally thought of it to be Discord's Lesson Zero, but the way I personally see it, it's more like his own spinoff to Fluttershy's most recent episode beforehand; Fluttershy Leans In. But that's not to say it's a cheap and stupid gimmick, which would've been a bad thing if it was.

As if none of that's enough to convince you to give it a positive reputation, Discordant Harmony's friendship lesson of learning to be different from your other friends instead of doing everything their way and not doing your's at least when you have to be yourself is at least enough to change you as another person to help you learn from your mistakes in any similar situations that you can relate to in this episode's case...or, at least to teach you before it ever happens in your life. Even if there wasn't much humor (which would've effected its reputation to some minor extent if it didn't have some sprinkled all over it), the overall pacing of the realistic storyline leading up to Discord fixing up everything to help impress his bestest friend certainly makes for a complex and innovative one at that. Sometimes on the flipside however, there should be more to learn of Fluttershy's and Discord's relationships than just tea parties, but either way, that factor has no effect on the idea of this Season 7 chapter.

Since it does everything that makes previous outings of the draconquus good (minus Discord's only dark spot in his character), Discordant Harmony is one episode that helps itself to add more charm to this already stellar season even after its first and only flop so far known as Not Asking for Trouble. With flawless portrayals from the main characters (and Pinkie Pie's nice cameo when she gives Discord a little tea party advice) via Libman's and de Lancie's performances that always remain excellent even after their big bruises of character development, a gripping storyline, hilarious and realistic humor that's just as admirable as those of most of Discord's previous installments before this, and well-constructed concept of revisiting Discord's home after Make New Friends but Keep Discord just two years eariler, and besides its fantastic moral of friendship, Discordant Harmony gets pretty much everything right about its aspects of a good episode, and is very close to being my favorite normal lengther of the draconquus. Period.

Friday, July 14, 2017

MLP:EG Specials Review - Dance Magic, Movie Magic, & Mirror Magic (Episodes 1-3)

It's not saying much really that the Equestria Girls spinoff hasn't improved itself lately and has rather gone downhill after the flawless 2014 sequel that is Rainbow Rocks. With the specials now in store on television as an attempt to try something new at the franchise of MLP, I shall be doing a retrospect review on them all in one post here. And before I get started, none of them are that good, so for these three reviews in one, don't expect me to be that positive about these so-called specials by my own standpoint.

If you were to cross The Show Stoppers over with Rarity Takes Manehattan and put the ponies into the human world, then you would preferably get Dance Magic. As a plot that revolves around the Human Five, Sunset, and Sci-Twi trying to compete to get the best music video to earn some money after a car wash fundraiser job deadline, it isn't entirely bad as the overall song (and music video to an extent) with three of the Shadowbolts and our seven main characters, but it is flawed in some other senses.

Rarity isn't at her greatest when she comes up with the idea of making her own music video and just spilling out details and secrets to the Shadowbolts at Sci-Twi's old school, which really makes you wonder what she was thinking when coming up against them. The Shadowbolts also aren't helped much by the fact that they haven't seemed to have learned from the events of Friendship Games, and rather haven't changed which doesn't help add a fair amount of potential to them even in the slightest. And the last is that basically tries to copycat both episodes I said Dance Magic ripped off to make it seem like nothing new to the franchise other than showing what The Show Stoppers is like primarily in the human world as I said.

Overall, Dance Magic is the third installment in both series I give a dislike to after Stoppers and Somepony to Watch Over Me. It's tolerable at best, but is nothing new in either its moral or its story, and by the end of day, I find my self considering one of my favorite "bad" installments of the franchise that I can take.

Sci-Twi has been one of my lowest ranked characters of the franchise for her total whininess, but for these first two specials, I could admittedly tolerate her at most even though her status in the "cool" or "stupid" character factor haven't exactly changed.

The one other factor that I'm afraid is taking me off topic as to anything at least half decent about this flop is one of the most recent characters of the spinoff; Juniper Montage! As a character who's straight up bratty and unlikable, although I can take her compared to Timtin Spreiber, she's a character who feels both bankrupt and dead on arrival since DOA can best describe the anything else even without Everfail. Getting to the plot however, it's best described as both boring and gimmicky. We're supposed to some Indiana Jones-referencing sets via Daring Do's scenes, but it's really just an excuse to show what the genuine character herself is like in the human world and nothing else really. With even pointless cameos like those recycled Power Ponies costumes and Juniper just ruining all the fun on set, it's painfully predictable both in its reception and the overall plot in general.

I mean seriously, could you NOT have predicted that Juniper WAS the hooded figure all along?

Now this special is where I ask "What were Rachel Vine and Dave Polsky thinking?!" This one literally makes no sense and confuses me from Point A to B, so where do I even start?

When I said Juniper Montage was terrible in Movie Magic, well, if you compared her to her Mirror Magic self, then that's nothing. She's even worse as a selfish brat who wants revenge on the Human Seven, and Starlight (despite Glimmy not being affected as an improved character from the poorly constructed sixth season in the main Friendship Is Magic series), and her redemption by the very end makes Starlight's look like Discord's and Sunset's. There's also no real explanation or logic as to how that magical mirror is possible other than just- well, MAGIC, and that's no surprising shame considering this is some terrible gimmick that's like something out of Beauty and the Beast. These factors and Juniper's character being ten times worse all add up to a recipe of total disaster that makes it seem like false advertisement, with an even stupider story and forced moral that just shoves it down your throw to accept others and forgive them instantly instead of giving them the time they clearly need to develop and learn.

There's virtually no reason for even the most die hard fan of the spinoff to give this a watch, and if not for Everfail and To Time a Finale Badly breaking its fall, Mirror Magic would easily rank as the worst installment of both franchises of MLP combined.


Final Thoughts

Am I the only one who thinks THIS scene of Sunset returning to Equestria
briefly in Mirror Magic is better than the specials themselves in general?

The three specials of the spinoff so far all come to a conclusion that its best to either put Equestria Girls out of its misery, or just give it a remake if Meghan McCarthy can't spice it back up (even if she tried her hardest). Everything as Zack and I both have discussed in this series has lost potential after the second installment and other than Sunset herself, I have no interest in EG anymore, and if anymore specials do come, I'm just wanting to get them over with just to rant about them during reviews. If I AM suddenly surprised one day by a GOOD special, who knows?

NOTE: I won't be posting anything next week since I'll be bonding with my cousins elsewhere. Keep that in mind and I guess I'll see you all in the last week of the month sometime.