Sunday, May 28, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Hard to Say Anything (S7, E8, P141, OE151)

Big McIntosh is one who has certainly done himself wonders as a character what with some episodes in the past two seasons despite both being considerably average due to more poor writing than even Season 2. After the success of both Brotherhooves Social and Where the Apple Lies, we're now given a sequel to the underrated Hearts and Hooves Day; Hard to Say Anything. (Ironically of which, this is the second Cute Mark Crusaders episode with none of the Mane Six or Spike making even a cameo after one of Season 6's first, and most overhated installments On Your Marks) It could very well be another divisive episode among the fandom, but there are those who love and those who hate it. For me however, I loved it!

The Cutie Mark Crusaders discover that Big McIntosh has a crush on Sugar Belle, the baker from Starlight Glimmer's village. They encourage Big Mac to confess his feelings, but he is interrupted by Feather Bangs, a pompous stallion who also has affections for Sugar Belle. The Crusaders help Big Mac compete against Feather Bangs using romantic methods learned from fairy tales, but Sugar Belle is overwhelmed by their grandiose advances and rejects both stallions. Dejected, Big Mac and the Crusaders find a more suitable gift for Sugar Belle by building her a new bakery display case like she always wanted. Sugar Belle is delighted and accepts Big Mac's feelings, while the Crusaders decide to help the brokenhearted Feather Bangs find new love with his own admirers.

Hearts and Hooves Day has earned some bits of criticism among fans (more than critics) based on it's *stupid* humor and cliched story, but the way I see it, it's rather compelling, humorous, and realistic. The same could be said with Hard to Say Anything, but it's one I defend with great honor, and honestly feels like it took elements from Legend of Everfree (or Everfail as me and Zack the Railfan Brony prefer to call it), and fixed them up, like the story, the reasonable chemistry of love between Big Mac and his crush Sugar Belle, not to mention the bearability of the Justin Bieber-inspired Feather Bangs. He may not be the most endearing character of the season so far, but we can all agree though that he's at least more tolerable than Everfail's Timber Spruce. (You could say he's at least understandable by the very end of the episode, but we'll just have to see how he develops if he returns with an episode of his own; something of which I wouldn't mind seeing).

Getting to Big Mac's and the Crusaders' parts, Big Mac is just as excellent as he was during Seasons 5 and 6 (the less said about Apple Bloom's nightmare of him and his disturbing dialogue in Bloom & Gloom the better), and the Crusaders proved themselves to be just as quirky, lovable, and magnificent in their roles as well as any other episode centered around them (minus their childishly stupid selves in Stare Master during Season 1, and their hypocritical behavior towards Spike in the painful Just for Sidekicks from Season 3). Sugar Belle is just as likable of a character as everyone else as her personality just grows on you with no disliking towards her interest of pies and apples, and she's just... well, sweet in that sense. My only two grudges between Big Mac's and Sugar Belle's chemistry of a shipping is that I feel they aren't meant to be forever (as I'm personally a FlutterMac shipper after Filli Vanilli), and that Big Mac's song mixed with that of Feather Bangs doesn't feel like a song I could listen to a second time even if it does seem a little hilarious. So the episode may lack a bearable song, but for me, it doesn't destroy the overall plot's positive reputation completely.

With great plot pacing, plenty of good humor via the Crusaders' humorous, but failed attempts to hook Apple Bloom's brother up with Sugar Belle, a superb moral, a more bearable Timber Spruce for this series (even if he isn't exactly one of the all time greatest characters of the show as I said), and excellent portrayals of the Crusaders, Big Mac, Feather Bangs, and Sugar Belle, Hard to Say Anything comes off to me as something underrated that I feel it doesn't have that annoyance and unbearability that Not Asking for Trouble has (which I'll get to in a few weeks when the MLP Wikia uploads the episode's screenshot photos but anyway). Even if it isn't perfect what with its flawed song by Big Mac and his rival against Sugar Belle, the episode's laugh-out-loud moments, gripping storyline, and the excellent moral that comes across it, it still all adds up to an appreciative outing by newbie writer Becky Wangberg (let alone her very first).

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Parental Glideance (S7, E7, P140, OE150)

It's been a major anticipation to see Rainbow Dash's parents finally make an appearance on Friendship Is Magic. After over six long years of waiting though, we're finally introduced to them Parental Glideance. The first major Wonderbolts episode Wonderbolts Academy was undoubtedly a major hit back in Season 3, Rainbow Falls was... eh, neutral by my standards, Rarity Investigates! was great (and surprisingly rewatchable), but Season 6 made Wonderbolts-like episodes go from shockingly atrocious (Newbie Dash) to their usual sane selves (Top Bolt). Parental Glideance on the other hand is better constructed than Rainbow Falls, but not necessarily in the standards of great like Academy or Investigates!.

Scootaloo interviews Rainbow Dash's parents, Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles, for a school report about her idol. The two are ecstatic when Scootaloo tells them that Rainbow Dash is now a Wonderbolt, and immediately visit their daughter to cheer for her. However, Rainbow Dash is mortified by her parents' overenthusiastic support, confiding in Scootaloo that she deliberately hid her induction from them for this reason. When her parents begin celebrating every mundane thing she does, Rainbow Dash snaps and angrily sends them away. Disappointed in her behavior, Scootaloo shows Rainbow Dash her report and helps her realize that her parents' lifelong support has built her into the confident and talented pony she is now. Rainbow Dash reconciles with her parents by performing a private Wonderbolts show for them to express her appreciation.

Acting as a sequel to the character-redeeming masterpiece Top Bolt after the character derailing, mean-spirited catastrophe known as Newbie Dash, Parental Glideance is best described as strange, but plot-wise, it's at least tolerable. The plot tries to be as compelling as possible without being too unreasonably mean-spirited despite Rainbow Dash rejecting her parents out of (dare I say) stalking annoyance being too unwatchable. The moral comes off as excellent as well when it shows that your parents can be your biggest supporters who give you all that you need to succeed to where you should never take any of your parents' support for granted, and when it's all said and done, it's a great remind of all those potential things your parents have ever done for you (if you even had good parents that is, not to brag). Even the Wonderbolts remained solidly tolerable as ever with no moments of unlikability unlike Newbie Dash.

The one thing the episode lacks however are (newly introduced) admirable parents for a Mane Six member. Bow Hothoof and Wendy Whistles are simply too weird of characters, and their overenthusiastic support for their daughter Rainbow Dash only makes the episode and some of its scenes more flawed than usual. On the flipside though, alongside Rainbow Dash being back to her admirable self, Dashie's parents at least not standard-less like the yaks (which I HAVE watch Not Asking for Trouble, and believe me, it's really terrible whether or not you agree with me) to where they have some of the most unbearable personalities and characterization, but since they are on the same levels of character likable-ness as say Thorax, there is some potential hope that they'll get better personalities than their weird selves for this average chapter by Josh Hamilton as long as they'll look at a lot more in the world than just and only their own daughter.

Whilst I can't exactly favor Parental Glideance based solely on how Rainbow Dash's parents are far too weird, there's still plenty of fun to be had. From memorable moments like exploring the inside of Rainbow Dash's original home, to all her events and stunts she and the Wonderbolts pull off, including the very end where she makes it all up to her parents with an apology via another cool stunt, and even her flashbacks as filly when she got better and better as she kept competing, there is enough enjoyability to watch it through at least once. Rainbow Dash's parents could've been portrayed better, but hopefully the next time they show up and get an episode of their own, we'll get better characterization out of them.

And while the episode does help to bring Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts back to their tolerable selves that they were back then despite some of Season 6, Glideance is best suited for my average category of episodes considering it isn't exactly perfect as most other episodes in the season are, but by no means did it bog the season down for the worst and is admirable enough for those bronies/pegasisters/fans both inside and out of the military.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Forever Filly (S7, E6, P139, OE149)

It's impossible to deny that Sisterhooves Social is one of MLP's best episodes of both Season 2 and the series in general - with Brotherhooves Social acting as an improved sequel, or at least a spinoff. In a similar fashion, we're also given a new episode in Season 7 known as Forever Filly. If you were to consider Forever Filly anything though, it'd be Sisterhooves Social 2: The Nostalgia of Rarity & Sweetie Belle. And as another episode that handles its plot, pacing, and moral excellently, there's clear prof that Season 7 is gaining more and more potential as it goes on.

Rarity, feeling nostalgic for her sisterly bonding with Sweetie Belle, decides to spend the day together with her. However, all of Rarity's planned activities are things Sweetie Belle has outgrown, which Rarity fails to notice as Sweetie Belle reluctantly humors her. After finally growing annoyed with Rarity and leaving her, Sweetie Belle joins Apple Bloom and Scootaloo in helping another filly, Zipporwhill, reconnect with her pet dog, who has similarly grown disinterested in playing with her. Sweetie Belle figures out that Zipporwhill has been treating her grown dog like a puppy, and encourages her to find new ways to play. Rarity overhears this and apologizes for not treating Sweetie Belle her age, the sisters agreeing to try new activities together.

The main thing that makes both Forever Filly and Sisterhooves Social very good episodes are the concepts of two sisters bonding together like real family and helping their respective plots to deliver a clever and at times; personal message that almost anyone can relate to. Looking at Filly's plot in this case, it's all done magnificently. When it paces out with Rarity trying to do all previous things Sweetie Belle did as a little filly, it may not exactly be the most entertaining, but what makes up for that is when Rarity eventually learns from her precious sister that all those things just aren't quite as appealing to her as in her old days as a much younger sibling to Rarity. Sometimes it may even make you think of all the things you may have loved as a younger kid, yet they doesn't hold up for you anymore today because... well, reasons. (The most common being that you've grown out of them)

Some of the best moments in the episode include Rarity giving Sweetie Belle her once favorite ice cream back then, and when she dresses up in adorable costumes with her sister. Most of all though, the touchiness in emotion for anyone to connect to is the scene of Rarity admitting the episode's moral of treating your siblings they're exact age with the stuff they prefer to do current instead of other things they liked only back then which really gives you the thought of wanting to treat your own siblings more fairly.

Whilst I do find few other episodes of the season to be more appealing, by no means does Forever Filly go down in the category of awful Season 7 episodes as I must say it's quite the charm. It gets right what Somepony to Watch Over Me (if you think about it more clearly) gets wrong, and improves upon its predecessor (Sisterhooves Social). It's not exactly epic or action-packed, but does it really need to be? Not in this case. All good things considered however, it definitely does Season 7 more than enough much-needed justice.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

MLP:FIM Review - Rock Solid Friendship (S7, E4, P136, OE146)

When it comes to writers that have come a long way around by the brony fandom's approval, Nick Confalone still has to be in my category of writers with hit-or-miss work. With past episodes like The Saddle Row Review and Hearthbreakers, he hasn't done much for himself. Then again though, he at least tried harder with Dungeons & Discords in the past season, but the less said about Party Pooped and (most of all) No Second Prances the better. With a third episode focusing strongly on Pinkie's sister (since I'm not counting Confalone's second Season 5 installment as it was focusing on more than just Maud), I feel he's at least done himself wonders with at least giving Rock Solid Friendship at least some good effort. Although to be fair, that really isn't saying much.

After Maud earns her "rocktorate" in rock science, Pinkie Pie is delighted that her sister is considering moving to Ponyville. Unimpressed with Ponyville's selection of rocks and minerals, Maud agrees to stay if she can find someone who understands her. Starlight meets Maud and finds much in common with her, particularly that Maud's love of rocks comes from her fear of being judged by others. Pinkie, however, believes that Starlight would be put off by Maud's behavior and frequently tries forcing them to get along. Upset with Pinkie's interference, Maud decides to move to the dangerous Ghastly Gorge by herself. Pinkie realizes her mistake and convinces Maud to return to Ponyville, promising to stop impeding on her friendships. Maud reunites with Starlight and sets up her new home in an underground grotto the two found near town earlier.

To start off with character portrayals, Maud's always been a great inclusion to the series as a character (but let's just forget about the time she briefly made fun of Discord back in Season 5 once), but there's no doubt her portrayal here is as excellent of a role as her very first appearance in Season 4. Starlight may not be highly admirable after Season 6 (or 5 I should say), but I'll say she's been done magnificently here too. The one thing that bogs Pinkie's performance down though is a little too much overreaction which really makes her rather annoying, but to be fair, at least she isn't being as harshly OOC as she was in Filli Vanilli. So Pinkie's may lack the complexity that Maud and Starlight admittedly had, but I can at least accept since it's better than the insensitive pony she was in... well, THAT Season 4 episode I just mentioned. I should also mention that her overreactive self was at least acceptable to be precise since Twilight's in Prances was totally unbearable.

The plot seems much like that of both The Gift of the Maud Pie and No Second Prances, but in a more admirable way. It isn't perfect considering Confalone's less stellar at writing as other writers who are on the same level as him, but the pacing of developing our three main characters was done very well and the relationship developing between Maud and Starlight genuinely makes for a nice friendship - and something more interesting than Trixie's friendship with Starlight ever will be since the so-called "Great and Powerful" illusionist herself is really just too annoying for me to look past, but I disgress. Although the overall humor isn't exactly on Keep Calm and Flutter On or Three's A Crowd levels of humorous (since they still remain being my funniest episodes of MLP to this day), there are some good moments to have a good chuckle about.

So did Confalone learn from the mistakes he made in messes like No Second Prances and Party Pooped? Well as I said, Pinkie's portrayal here was being at least more tolerable than Twilight's in Prances to where she wasn't too hypocritical as to going all furious on Maud and rather just begging and pleading her with so much mercy when trying her hardest to convince her sister to stay in Ponyville. So, maybe...? As I said though, it shouldn't really come as a surprise either Confalone just can't quite get past those levels of decent, but by no means would I consider Rock Solid Friendship to be half bad.

So just for the sake of being at least generous, RSF is one of Season 7's good episodes, although I wouldn't say it's great, nor is it anything entirely new. It really shouldn't be anything of a surprise or concern that Nick Confalone still hasn't made an episode I personally favor, but even still, he can have a bright spot or two. But with a nice plot, great character portrayals, a good moral of friendship, and not having some of those things that Confalone included in previous episodes like mean-spiritedness, there's at least some quality Rock Solid Friendship has to offer - decent to say the least though.