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Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign Season One, Part Two Review

Seraph of the End Season One reaches its conclusion with the latest Blu-ray from FUNimation. Part One was good, not perfect, but still did a solid job establishing the setting. The concept of humanity being wiped out aside from pockets of resistance almost always makes for a compelling story. The ending of Part One introduced new concepts to the table and another dimension to the human/vampire conflict. Part Two explores these concepts in detail while advancing the overall storyline. With the characters already established, the rather poor pacing found in the beginning of Part One is almost non-existent here. There are some lackluster elements, such as Yu being more on the mediocre side when it comes to protagonists and an out of control climax. There’s still of course a lot more to like than dislike.

The first episode (technically Episode 13) establishes a couple of things for the story. Before we dive into them, one thing of note is Mitsuba’s characterization. We’ve seen some emotion from her in Part One, but here in this episode it might be her best scene. She’s given a promotion, but says to Yu, “I don’t deserve a promotion, I’m a failure.” This is referencing events in Part One. The writing sometimes fails (we’ll talk about that soon) but more often than not it succeeds in delivering genuine emotion from the characters.

One of the biggest scenes in Part One was Yu running into his old friend, Mika. We know of course that Mika is a vampire which makes Yu want to do something about it. In this episode Yu is doing research on the possibility of turning a vampire back into a human. This is fine, but what happens later with Yu and Mika makes this scene moot. Not only that, but what happens later is the single worst moment of the anime. We’ll address it soon, but first it’s worth mentioning that Episode 13 also introduces a major player to the board, Kureto.

As Yu sees his friends being tortured by Kureto for information, the viewer knows something is going on behind the scenes with the humans. Perhaps the biggest scene of Part Two is Kureto telling Guren his master plan: after taking out the vampires, he wants to destroy all the remaining human pockets of resistance and put the world under one government, the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. This is a fascinating backdrop because it changes the face of the war from “good humans against evil vampires.” The writing for Kureto is very good as he borders from someone genuinely concerned about the future of humankind to deranged sociopath. The scene in the climax with him saying that if God is their enemy they’ll fight Him fully established Kureto as a character with a superiority complex. He is a character begging for backstory the anime sadly hasn’t given. Hopefully if there is a Season Two we’ll see that.

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Speaking of Guren, the writing does an excellent job making him complex and likable. All throughout Part One it was the opposite. Part Two changes things by making him in contrast to Kureto’s “anything to win” mentality. Perhaps the best part is the flashback to when Guren took Yu in. It did an excellent job showing how the relationship between the two started. Guren showcases some of his best moments in the second half of Part Two in his tag team battle with Shinya (perhaps the best new character in Part Two) against Crowley. The big plot development with Guren in the final two episodes is a bit sudden, but should be interesting to see fleshed out if there’s a second season.

Easily the best parts of Part Two are when the Moon Demon Company venture out into the streets to take out the Nobles. The action scenes are excellent as well as the soundtrack. The music was very good in the first part, but here it’s even better. The most engaging sequence is when Guren’s and Shinoa’s teams attempt to take down the Crowley. There’s an incredible amount of tension in these scenes as we see everyone outclassed by Crowley. Crowley is one of the best written characters and may be the most compelling antagonist of the entire anime.

Like in Part One, there’s an ongoing subplot with Mika. Here in Part Two his main goal is to find Yu and take him someplace away from everything. The main thing I personally found engaging about Mika’s plot was his constant inner struggle to not give into his vampire side. There are a few instances where for a second the viewer thinks he’s going to, but then he doesn’t. It’s an excellent part of the story…and then it’s all for nothing.

The sequence with Mika battling his way through Moon Demon Company soldiers to get to Yu was engaging. The episode “Yu and Mika” is supposed to be the big payoff one for viewers, the culmination of everything since the haunting very first episode. For a bit the episode is great, until Yu basically forces Mika to drink his blood. Mika repeatedly tells Yu that he doesn’t want to be a vampire forever. If he does drink human blood, there’s no going back. As stated earlier, Mika spends the the show fighting his desire to drink human blood. Despite this knowledge, Yu continually insists that Mika drink his blood, thus condemning his best friend to be a vampire. Yu should have honored his friend’s wishes in this case, even if Mika was severely weakened and needed the blood. This scene was brutal and it was hard to be engaged with Yu in anything afterward.

The climax is a mixed bag unfortunately. The build up to it is excellent and provides a sense that a grand, final showdown is about to take place. The actual battle is all over the place because it introduces too many new elements to the field. We have a gigantic demonic monster appearing out of nowhere, an angel, and Guren’s plot development among other things. The core humans vs. vampires story was lost in all of this. Everything is thrown at the viewer without much explanation which hurt the effectiveness of the climax. The biggest crime however might be the under-utilization of Queen Krul. She was established as the vampire leader of Japan and main antagonist in Part One, but here she barely does anything. By the end, she can’t even be called the main villain anymore. The writing really dropped the ball with her.

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Overall, Season One of Seraph of the End isn’t perfect. Part Two has a few problems preventing it from being truly fantastic. Despite these things however, the show is still extremely engaging from beginning to end. The biggest theme is family. Sometimes family isn’t by blood. As seen with Shinoa’s brother and Mitsuba’s sister, sometimes blood relatives are less family than those friends that are close to you. While Yu isn’t an amazing protagonist, most of the other characters are well written. The final episode sets some things up for a presumable Season Two. Seraph isn’t the greatest anime, but still one worth checking out.

7.5/10

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Doctor Strange Review

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Marvel Studios has cemented itself as a company viewers expect great things from. For the past two years it has been consistent in delivering quality. This year saw the release of one of the finest films in the franchise, Civil War. Now the company takes a short break from the ensemble to focus on introducing another character to the fold. Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange is an enjoyable installment with a unique spiritual backdrop. The main thing stopping it from being truly great is a mediocre climax.

In some ways Doctor Strange is similar to the first Iron Man. Like Tony Stark, Stephen Strange is introduced as an arrogant man only looking out for himself. The path to his redemption is engaging. The opening act does a good job establishing who he is as a surgeon. Everything seems to be going right, but one event can change everything. In Iron Man’s case it was the terrorists killing Tony’s companions and kidnapping him. In Doctor Strange it’s the car crash that sets him on a path he didn’t expect to be on.

As stated in the first paragraph, the film has a unique spiritual backdrop. Scott Derrickson is a Christian, and he brings quite a few Biblical themes to the table. The conversation between Stephen and the Ancient One on life in general comes to mind. Ancient One shows him in a fun sequence how there’s more to life than what is happening in front of them. Derrickson delivers something refreshing with utilizing aspects of faith which is unfortunately rare in films.

The core of the story is found in the middle act with Stephen traveling to Nepal in hopes of healing his hands. This is one of the main aspects of the origin: Stephen training alongside other sorcerers. It’s well done mostly, but falters in perhaps being too long. There isn’t a big action sequence for quite awhile after the opening scene. The biggest problem with the training aspect might be that the film doesn’t let the viewer know how much time has passed since Stephen first walked through the doors. If we take the film at face value, it hasn’t been that long, so it’s hard to believe that Stephen was able to master all these techniques so quickly. He learns spells and actually outsmarts Wong.

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Benedict Cumberbatch owns the role as the title character. By the end of the film he’s one of the most engaging Marvel protagonists. His role as Sorcerer Supreme will be a lot of fun to watch in future films. The story does a good job detailing the type of work the Ancient One and her fellow sorcerers do. Wong’s dialogue stating,“The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.” was excellent. Speaking of Wong, he was a lot of fun to have around. Every scene he was in with Strange was a highlight. Going back to the Ancient One, she was a compelling character. The writing gave her the best lines; Tilda Swinton delivered them with excellence.

Baron Mordo is an interesting, likable character. Anyone who has read the comics knows what happens; nonetheless, the writing does an excellent job building up to his big plot development in the after-credits scene. Before moving on to the antagonists, there’s one more character of note. Christine Palmer doesn’t appear too much but when she does it’s almost always a good scene. The viewer can feel her sadness when Strange early on basically tells her that without his work, life isn’t worth living, even with her. This plays into the excellent development later when Strange admits he was wrong. Romance doesn’t play a huge part in the story, but what is there is very genuine, in contrast to what is seen in some other Marvel films. (Thor and Ant-Man come to mind when it comes to poorly developed romances.)

The film has two main antagonists. The first is Kaecilius. He wasn’t that interesting, but at least the idea of a former student turning over to the dark side was done alright. The true villain behind everything is Dormammu. He gets a lot of hype throughout the story, and rightfully so. In the comics he’s a powerful figure, on the level of Thanos. Marvel had the opportunity to introduce a major character, and it failed miserably.

Dormammu is Doctor Strange’s greatest antagonist and an extremely powerful character. In the film he is described as a destroyer of worlds but we never get a glimpse of that. Instead when he finally appears he is just a floating head with a deep voice. In the comics he has a menacing, humanoid appearance with a flaming head similar to Ghost Rider’s. We didn’t see that here. Marvel is typically good with accurately bringing characters from the page to the screen but this is just as bad as what FOX did with Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The climax also doesn’t help. Instead of a grand final battle, Strange beats Dormammu in a most unsatisfying way. It’s amusing after the first couple of times (though the ability is too overpowered) but becomes an annoying running gag considering it’s at the expense of Dormammu actually doing something. This was a massive disappointment and could potentially ruin the film for longtime fans of the villain.

The visuals are perhaps the film’s best feature. They are unlike anything we’ve seen in previous comic book films and rival that of Inception’s loopy visuals. They made for some really unique action sequences. From the opening fight scene to the battle in the mirror dimension, it’s an experience witnessing reality being warped. The soundtrack is another highlight. Marvel films don’t typically have notable soundtracks, but Doctor Strange breaks that trend. It’s still not spectacular (there are a few generic themes in there) but it’s solid thanks to the epic choir throughout the film.

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Overall, Doctor Strange is an engaging introduction for the Sorcerer Supreme. Scott Derrickson brings excellent themes to the table. Time is limited – we’re not here forever, so we need to make the most of every opportunity to do good. This is something the Ancient One says to Stephen later in the film. There’s a lot of excellent dialogue. The visuals are unique and something to be experienced on the big screen. Unfortunately the climax is disappointing and a major drawback.

8/10

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The Empire of the Corpses Review

The Empire of the Corpses saw release in Japan a year ago. Not too long after seeing a limited theatrical release in the United States, FUNimation released the Blu-ray. Empire is a truly interesting film. It a science fiction thriller with some horror elements. It finds a fine line between telling a realistic story while delving into sci-fi territory. Not only is it a must watch for anime fans; it’s a must watch for anyone who have enjoyed the classic universal monster stories.

Set mainly in an alternate 19th century England, Empire’s plotline is engaging from the start. The narration by John Watson sets the tone for what’s to come. The driving force behind the story is the search for Victor Frankenstein’s notes. This is an excellent backdrop and one could even see the film as a brilliant take on Frankenstein’s Monster. (In this film referred to as “the One.”) Even though Victor is long dead, his presence is felt because he’s the one who discovered how to reanimate a corpse. The military uses this discovery to reanimate the dead for battle. The dead are also used for chores among other laborious tasks. It’s an interesting status quo, and gives the film a Walking Dead feel.

Even though people have managed to bring back the dead, no one has managed to do what Victor did: give the dead a soul. This is the driving force behind Watson’s character arc. He’s managed to bring his friend and colleague Friday back. Watson is desperate to give him his soul; because, while the body of Friday is there, without a soul it’s an empty shell. This might sound well intended, but the ongoing theme is to destroy the notes so that mankind won’t have that kind of power. Watson however when he finally comes into possession of the notes he hesitates, which leads to the deaths of many. People cannot play God, and when they try disastrous results take place.

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Watson is portrayed as a man bent on bringing his friend’s soul back, to the point where it consumes him. It’s interesting to watch, especially when the One arrives on the scene for the first time. He questions whether Watson will become like Victor, a haunting message. The writing is fantastic from beginning to end. There are however some things that may have been resolved too fast. The consequences for Watson not destroying the notes were brushed to the side quickly. The scene with Burnaby yelling at Watson that it’s the latter’s fault was excellent, but right after that they’re back to being friends. It’s understandable that Burnaby would put aside his hatred to help Watson stop the One, but the resolution was rather quick.

Speaking of Burnaby, the cast is strong. Burnaby is a great character and without him the film would have been more dreary than it needed to be. Hadaly was good, but the writing needed to develop her better. Her first big appearance is a deus ex machina moment, and then later the plot twist is a little much to take in. If the film had shown a flashback, it would have been better. Her “father” was Thomas Edison, which is fascinating but again the story needed to show her backstory for it to be more effective. Nikolai appears early on. Watson does’t at first trust him, giving the viewer an interesting dynamic. Nikolai made for a nice contrast to Burnaby’s personality. (They were very similar to Fai and Kurogane from Tsubasa.) It was disappointing what the writing did with Nikolai toward the middle act. It was a powerful and effective scene nonetheless. If it wasn’t apparent before, this scene made it apparent: the destruction of Victor’s notes was top priority.

Frankenstein has been portrayed in various ways throughout the years. This version in Empire does the Monster justice. Here we see that he is disgruntled with human beings. All of his dialogue is excellent. From his ominous arrival to the final act, he might be the greatest character in the film. His endgame plan has a classical, tragic appeal to it. He shares the antagonist role with M. M isn’t as interesting, but the writing still makes good use of his ideology, even if the dialogue is just thrown at the viewer in the climax.

The film moves at a great pace. There’s a lot of dialogue, especially in the final act, but there’s a good number of action sequences to balance it out. The soundtrack is standard, but it does have a thematic quality to it. It works well with the 19th century setting. The greatest theme might be the piano melody played by the One. (It sounded like something straight out of a Universal 30’s film.) The ending of the film could have been better. It leaves the viewer confused and unsatisfied. In contrast, the after-credits scene is upbeat and a fun homage. (If you thought John Watson was just a borrowed name, you’re in for a treat.)

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Overall, Empire of the Corpses is one of the best anime films from the last decade. The 19th century setting gives the story’s atmosphere a sense of elegance. The biggest aspect is that it’s also a sequel to the Frankenstein story. The driving force behind everything is Victor’s notes, which made for an excellent backdrop. Watson is a likable, flawed character. He’s a human obsessed with bringing back his friend’s soul from the dead, to the point where it jeopardizes the mission. The fallout of being obsessed with this was fascinating to watch. Themes are explored, such as free will.  The One is one of the greatest versions of Frankenstein’s Monster. Every scene he was in he commanded a presence. Even though the film could have used an additional 15 minutes to flesh out some things (the explosive climax throws too much at the viewer), it is nonetheless a must-see.

9/10

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GARO: The Animation Season One, Part Two Review

Season One, Part Two of Garo: The Animation arrived on Blu-ray not too long ago. The first half (the previous Blu-ray) was an interesting story set in a medieval-like time period. The concept of demonic monsters called Horrors looking to possess humans and Ultraman-like beings called the Makai Knights combating the creatures made for an exciting tale. It did suffer from a few elements, preventing it from being called “great.” Part Two fixes the primary problems, making it the stronger half. It’s not perfect but still a compelling watch from beginning to end.

Part Two picks up a little after the events of the Episode 12. The ending there had Leon attempt suicide by jumping off a cliff. Obviously, it didn’t work and he’s found by a girl named Lara. She takes him to her quiet farm where Horrors seemingly aren’t a factor. This part lasts about a quarter of the story. Leon in Part One was sometimes not that likable. Starting here in Part Two that changes as he learns to live a simple life caring for Lara and her family. This part of the story is very low-key, but nice as Lara grows on Leon as well as the viewer. It’s here where Leon begins to learn what being a protector is all about.

The first quarter is divided between Leon helping out Lara’s family and back in the Kingdom with Prince Alfonzo and German. The latter is where the action is as Alfonso and German vanquish various Horrors. Interestingly, the two plot points don’t intersect at first. For awhile there was really no main story arc and the show felt almost episodic. This isn’t a bad thing however since two of the primary negatives in Part One, the characters of Leon and German (especially him), are fixed here. There is one negative however from not having a main ongoing conflict. Some of the “villains of the week” were too well written to be confined to one episode. The conflict in Episode 14 was worthy of being a multi-parter. Perhaps worst in being underused was Doctor Fabian, a fascinating antagonist. (He even bested German, but thanks to poor plot reasons the Doctor ended up losing.) These antagonists would have been much better to have around than Mendoza

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The death of Lara was the turning point of Part Two. It was a very well done, emotional scene. The viewer could see how devastated Leon was. In just four episodes the writing successfully established how kind Lara and her family were. Starting here is when Leon truly steps into his role as Garo, protector of humanity. It was fun seeing him alongside Alfonso taking down Horrors.

It was surprising to have Mendoza be the primary antagonist so soon after being defeated back in Episode 12. He’s still not a great focus, but at least he was more interesting here than in Part One. German plays an interesting role later on. Seemingly sent to protect Mendoza, he “betrays” Leon and Alfonso. What happens next is an excellent, emotionally-charged conflict between father and son. It’s also intriguing because it’s written in such a way that makes the viewer question whether German is actually betraying Leon or not.

The climax has Mendoza gain a new form, which leads to a climatic battle against Leon. The dialogue is my personal favorite aspect of this, because the two characters go back and fourth on ideologies. In the end, Garo showcased what heroism was: willing to put his life on the line to save the world. The final moments inside the black hole were engaging, genuinely emotional, and an excellent way to finish the primary conflict. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of Anima. This monster was hyped in the last few episodes as an all-powerful creature. Yet when it appears it’s quickly dispatched.

Ema had a great role for most of Part Two. Even though she appeared frequently in Part One, she was still a mysterious character. The only thing viewers knew about her was that she was a Makai Alchemist, so it was good to see the show diving into her emotional backstory in Part Two. There’s only one negative regarding her, and it’s a big one. Leon and her have remained friends, with no hint at a romance in Part One. Yet, the writing decided there should be one here. It was unneeded and didn’t make a difference since it’s barely mentioned at all after the one scene. Octavia also has a substantial role, mainly later on. Her complete loyalty to Mendoza still seemed forced, but her character arc was still interesting to watch.

The fights are still great. The CGI when used looked excellent. Just about all of the soundtrack is lifted from Part One, but it’s hard to complain when we have such great themes. The epilogue episode is interesting, though it would have been nice to see what Leon and Alfonso were up to.

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Overall, Part Two of Garo ends the season on a high note. Leon is given excellent character development. He goes from the brooding, revenge-filled character of Part One to a heroic protector here. German was a primary negative of the previous Blu-ray, so it’s good to see the writing dial back on his flirtatious personality. Ema was very good and we also got to learn about her past. The romance between her and Leon was a head-scratcher however. Mendoza isn’t going to win any best anime antagonist awards. He’s still better than in Part One, but as stated earlier some of the one-shot antagonists would have been more interesting to have around. Despite that, Garo is a solid anime to add to your library.

8/10

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Where the Apple Lies” Review

It’s a disappointing thing to say, but Season Six of My Little Pony is coming to a close in a few weeks. There is however a lot to look forward to next year. Not only is Season Seven confirmed, but we’ll also be seeing three Equestria Girls specials and of course the theatrical film. Back to today’s episode, this is the first Applejack-centered one since “Applejack’s Day Off.” The latter wasn’t great, so Applejack was due for a quality installment. “Where the Apple Lies” is one of the most entertaining episodes yet and one of Season 6’s best.

Official Synopsis: When Apple Bloom tells a white lie to make cover up a mistake, Applejack shares the embarrassing story of how she came to value honesty after telling a series of lies that almost destroyed the farm and landed the whole Apple family in the hospital.

The episode’s first act focuses on Apple Bloom trying to get herself out of a situation by lying. After she’s found out, the rest of the Apple family tell the story of how Applejack came to uphold honesty. The rest of the episode is told through the flashback. This is effective because in real life hearing how one overcame a problem or came to value something can be a great thing for another person. The flashback is a lot fun for a variety of reasons, chief among them being a great look at the early days of the Apple family.

One of the most fun aspects of the flashback is the relationship between Applejack and Big Mac. The two had a loving, but also antagonistic sibling relationship. Mac is a highlight throughout the story here. Apparently back in the day he was the most talkative character. The writing has a blast with this, giving him the most funny lines. Another highlight was Filthy Rich. He hasn’t appeared all that much in the show. Recently his human version was seen in Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree, but that was a poor representation of him. Here he’s a business pony, but an honest, likable one. His reactions to Granny Smith being “sick” were priceless.

The primary purpose of the flashback is to showcase that lying is never worth it. Not only is it not worth it, but a single lie can lead to many more which can result in a bad situation someone never intended to be in. Applejack’s lying gets her into situations that probably wouldn’t happen in real life, but it’s nonetheless effective. (And humorous.) There aren’t major negatives, just minor things. For one, Applejack as as filly making a deal with Filthy Rich came off as unrealistic.

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Overall, “Where the Apple Lies” is a fantastic episode. The subject of lying takes the center as Applejack explains the things that occur when one tries to fix a situation by lying. Not only is it wrong, it makes things worst. The entire flashback is a blast. From Big Mac’s constant talking to Filthy Rich’s fun character, there’s a lot to like.

9/10

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)” Review

My Little Pony returns with an episode featuring a well known gimmick. This season in particular has been trying a couple of new formats. The early/mid Season 6 episode “The Saddle Row” is the biggest example. In today’s episode, the “Rashomond Effect” is used. “P.P.O.V.” is one of the funniest episodes of the season. That’s really the only good thing that can be said about it sadly, aside from the ending message.

Official Synopsis: When Applejack, Rarity and Pinkie Pie all return from a boat trip angry at each other, Twilight, after hearing three very different versions of the events, must discern the truth to save their friendships.

One of the reasons why MLP is such a great show is that a new viewer can jump in at any point during the series. For example, my first episode wasn’t the opening two-parter; it was “The Show Stoppers,” which was in the middle of the first season. Some episodes are of course better than others but almost every single one would be a solid way to introduce a new viewer. Sadly P.P.O.V. cannot be counted among these. If for example this episode was someone’s first exposure to the show, they wouldn’t see true friendship at play. Instead they would be witnessing unreasonable characters and then a poorly written conclusion.

The main reason why this episode falters is the portrayal of Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie. They appeared unreasonable throughout and when they finally realized what each was of them was trying to do, the veiwer is left shaking his/her head. It’s just incredibly hard to believe none of the three understood what was really happening. This is not to say this is the worst written portrayal of some of the ponies. (That honor belongs to “The Cart Before the Ponies.”)

Even the best of friends can get into arguments, but the episode needed better writing to showcase that. The overall concept is pretty good. Often people will have biased versions of an event to recollect. The exaggerated versions are entertaining and made me laugh a few times. It doesn’t excuse the three ponies’ portrayals, but at least one can have fun with the story. One of the best aspects is actually Spike. He’s written as a fun sidekick to Twilight. The greatest part was Twilight nailing the delivery of the message at the end. Best friends should never take communication for granted. Misunderstandings can happen if people don’t communicate properly, even among the closest friends.  It’s an excellent message that needed a better middle act leading up to it.

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Overall, P.P.O.V. is an entertaining episode, but not a greatly written one. Yes, even longtime friends like Applejack, Pinkie, and Rarity can get angry with one another; but what is shown here seemed unrealistic and hard to believe. The message is fantastic, which is the main well-written aspect.

5.5/10

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My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree Review

Equestria Girls returns with its fourth installment. This one introduces a few new things for the spin-off franchise. The first thing is of course that it released on Netflix. (In the US anyway, it was broadcast in Brazil about a week ago on TV.) The first two films had theatrical releases while the third went straight to TV. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for MLP on Netflix. (Who knows, if the show for some reason goes off Discovery Family we could see new seasons on Netflix.) The biggest new story aspect is the debut of this world’s version of the Everfree Forest. Legend of Everfree is another solid entry. It’s not as strong as the last film, but fans will definitely find a lot to like.

Official synopsis: When Canterlot Highschool goes on a trip to Camp Everfree, they’re surprised to find a magical force is causing strange things to happen around camp. With the help of the Mane 6 and especially Sunset Shimmer, Twilight Sparkle must confront the dark “Midnight Sparkle” within herself  and embrace her newfound magical abilities to save the camp.

Legend opens up with a strong dream sequence: Twilight being taunted by her darker self Midnight Sparkle from the previous film. This is a continuing element of the story until the climax. Even though the concept of keeping an evil version of one’s self at bay is nothing new, it will always be an engaging character arc. The viewer can see the terror on Twilight’s face in the final act as she’s forced to use her magic. As the one thing she’s been fearing is coming true: Midnight Sparkle taking over, her friends jump in and throw her some encouragement. Quotes such as “You are a light Twilight!”and “We’ll be here, no matter what!” were powerful and showed what kind of positive impact good friends can have. MLP never fails to showcase what friendship is supposed to look like in the real world.

As the title states, the core story takes place in the Everfree Forest as Canterlot High goes on a camping trip. The previous three films took place completely at school, so the green was a nice change of scenery. The plot moves at an okay pace. There are a few aspects of the writing that bring down the score a bit. For one thing, Filthy Rich is painfully generic. His pony counterpart didn’t seem to be that pretentious. Yes, the idea is to portray the person who only cares about profit. But, there are better ways to do that than the unrealistic portrayal here.

The bigger negative is that the writing decided to add another romance. Twilight (pony) liking Flash Sentry in the first Equestria Girls was incredibly forced, but even that was better than what is seen here. Timber Spruce isn’t a bad character, but the viewer has to question him right away flirting with Twilight. (Camp seems like a scary place if the counselor goes ahead and decides to flirt with one of the students almost instantly.) The writing attempts to develop this romance subplot throughout the duration, but it never works. All this happens over the course of just two/three days; by that night Twilight and Timber are just about to kiss before being interrupted. Again, all that happens in such a short amount of time. The romance aspect wasn’t needed and brought the story down every time it appeared. The only clever parts about it were the friends’ reactions.

The only other main negative with the writing is that there’s a missed opportunity. Everfree Forest is where Zecora lives in the pony world, so it would have made sense to introduce her here. Sadly, she’s nowhere to be seen. Moving on to the positive aspects, the writing aside from what was previously listed contains the quality viewers have come to expect from the franchise. From excellent humor (Rarity’s campfire story on “same color family” was ingenious) to iconic friendship speeches, there are a lot of great things to find here. The best part is the portrayal of Sunset Shimmer.

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Sunset Shimmer has come a long way from being the magic-obsessed villain from the first film. Interestingly, in many ways she’s at the moment the Twilight of the group. This is because the Twilight of this world is still new to friendship while Sunset is portrayed as a veteran when it comes to understanding how friendship works. Sunset throughout the story demonstrates how kind and caring she is. She’s just all around a sweet character and one of the best in the entire franchise. If you have a friend like Sunset, give her/him a hug (or at least a handshake) and let them know that you appreciate them. Friends like that are rare, and a blessing.

In some ways, the story is about Sunset and Twilight. The other friends don’t really do much aside from talking. This could be a major negative if the viewer was hoping for a more group-centric focus. Pinkie Pie is the biggest disappointment. She has no notable scenes and ended up just being comic relief. The antagonist this time around features a tragic backstory, a nice change of pace from previous films. Her dialogue was excellent with subtle comedy added in. Her character arc demonstrates the unfortunate happening when one wants too much power, even if it’s for seemingly noble reasons. The ending has her get off a little too easy however. By now we know the pony world and its human counterpart are very forgiving of crimes, but there were literally no consequences for what she did. It just subsided right after it was over.

One of the greatest parts of the film is the soundtrack. Legend might have the best songs from the series yet. The two main highlights are Twilight’s emotional “The Midnight in Me” and Sunset’s “Embrace the Magic.” These two are a couple of the best songs in the entire MLP franchise. Even if a person is not interested in the film, the music is worth listening to.

Overall, Legend of Everfree is another enjoyable film in the Equestria Girls series. Sunset Shimmer is the biggest highlight, showing that she’s just as a fantastic character as any of the Mane 6. (Depending on how you look at it though, the writing leaves the other friends in the dust while giving Sunset all the best dialogue and screen-time.) Twilight’s journey to fighting off her dark self was an engaging plot element. The climax features a great battle and hints at what’s to come for the series. There are some things holding back the film from being truly great, such as the poorly developed romance, but there’s a lot to appreciate despite any negatives.

7.5/10