My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Buckball Season” Review

It’s always interesting when a new writer tackles the characters. Jennifer Skelly makes her debut with today’s episode, “Buckball Season.” This one continues the slice of life-centric storytelling Season 6 has been doing. Sadly, as stated in previous reviews, the writing has been more on the average side. The previous two had finally broken that slump. Today’s installment has a few notable aspects. For one thing, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie have rarely  starred together in a team-up, so this was a treat. Another is the sports backdrop, which is a fun take on basketball & volleyball. It’s not a great episode, but these parts make it pretty fun.

When Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy turn out to be Ponyville’s best Buckball players, Applejack and Rainbow Dash agree to coach them against Appleoosa. But when the pressure’s on and the players stop having fun, Ponyville’s newest star athletes lose their competitive edge and quite possibly the biggest Buckball game in history!

So, one has to ask why this episode isn’t particularly great. “Buckball Season” suffers from  a rather mean portrayal of Applejack and Rainbow Dash. (Which interestingly enough happened also in “The Cart Before the Ponies.”) Their portrayal wasn’t as extreme as in Cart thankfully, but they still seemed rather unreasonable. This was for the sake of the message, which was about why pushing someone too hard can/will suck the fun out of a game. This isn’t a bad message (we’ll address that momentarily) but character development should never be sacrificed for the sake of the lesson. Another negative with the writing is Applejack and Rainbow deciding that Pinkie & Fluttershy should compete instead of the former two. This just didn’t flow properly and it’s hard to picture Rainbow letting another pony take her place in a competition.

The actual ‘Buckball’ was pretty fun to watch. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie make for an excellent team, both on the court and just as friends walking around. The different personalities play off each other well. A surprising highlight was Snails. He’s typically seen with Snips and together they’re usually nothing more than the comic relief duo of the show. Today’s episode actually gave Snails some personality, which was certainly welcome.

Now, the message is a simple one. Aligning with the idea of overdoing it as coaches, there’s this concept of “having fun is what’s important.” This is definitely true in some senses, but one must be careful not to overdo that message and make it seem like fun is the only important thing. In real competition, winning is important and one should train hard to win. The other extreme is of course when the idea of winning consumes a person and makes them miserable when he/she loses. The episode’s message doesn’t go to either extreme. It does scratch the surface of the former, but only barely. The lesson is for the most part good.

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Overall, “Buckball Season” has some writing problems stopping it from being a great episode. Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s portrayals were off during the second act, and them deciding not to play was completely unnatural. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie make for an excellent focus. It was also good seeing Snails have an actual role outside of the comic relief realm. The message is a solid one that the episode thankfully doesn’t overdo.

6.5/10

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Dungeons & Discords Review

Another Saturday equals another installment in the ongoing My Little Pony saga. Despite Season 6 being more on the mediocre side when compared to the previous five, every episode always bring some kind of entertainment. Still, for awhile I was concerned because quite a few episodes this season were either just okay or average. This finally changed last week with “The Times They Are A Changeling,” a much needed emotional entry. Today’s installment has a unique backdrop for the plot. Plus, Discord always makes things extra interesting. “Dungeons & Discords” is definitely better than Discord’s last starring role in “What About Discord?” It isn’t a particularity great episode, but some parts were a lot of fun.

When the Mane 6 leave town, Discord decides to join Spike and Big Mac’s “top secret” Guys’ Night. Much to Discord’s dismay, it turns out to be an evening of fantasy role-playing.

At this point one has either wholeheartedly accepted Discord as a reformed antagonist or still openly against it. I personally think the decision is still a mistake, but for the sake of reviewing I’ve done my best look at his new status quo from the show’s standpoint. Some of his subsequent adventures have been effective, mainly in  “Twilight’s Kingdom.” It is however easy to notice that he’s been more on the lackluster side thanks to incredibly mediocre/average episodes “Make New Friends But Keep Discord” and “What About Discord?” Today’s entry definitely rises above those. How is the writing overall? It’s more on the mixed side, but never outright bad.

A tabletop game isn’t a bad idea for a slice of life story. If the episode had put more of a focus on the game’s inner workings it could have been better. The most fun parts are when Spike and Big Mac are actually in the game. Instead of the story going the route it took, Discord making the game “real” for the entire duration would have made for an immensely entertaining tale. The middle act isn’t a chore to get through, but at the same time some parts were just grating because the story at the time didn’t seem to have much of a point. While seeing Discord continually growing more annoyed with the game the viewer is wondering what the Mane 6 are up to in Yakyakistan.

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The final act brings things full circle with a solid message. It’s definitely a good thing to invite somebody whom is alone to come play. That’s part one of the message, the second is that no one is better than another. Discord drives the latter home. Of course, if one is still against Discord being reformed, this message will be painful to watch. Some notable aspects of the episode include the sequence with Discord showing Spike and Big Mac what he considers to be a real “guys night out.” Another is perhaps the most clever line from the show yet, (hats off to writer Nick Confalone) which was said by Rainbow Dash: “If he messes with us I’ll turn that Yeti into confetti!”

Overall, “Dungeons & Discords” is an entertaining episode. The middle act is sometimes grating because the viewer just wants the story to get to the point. The gaming parts are a lot of fun, and at least half of Discord’s lines were very good. The message was definitely solid. While not a 5 star episode, this one was pretty good, and if you’ve gotten past Discord being a good guy, it’ll be even better.

7/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Times They Are A Changeling” Review

“The Times They Are A Changeling” (try saying that in one gulp) is finally an “important” episode. Now, this is not to say that every episode of My Little Pony has to be “important” in the sense that it furthers certain plot developments or establishes a new status quo. Slice of life stories is the show’s strong suit, and something the first two seasons in particular excelled at. The reason why I used the word ‘finally’ is because the last few episodes have been more on the mediocre side. The writing just hasn’t been quite up to the usual standard. The latest installment fixes this. It’s not a perfect episode but it’s definitely leagues ahead of what we’ve been seeing.

Spike travels with Twilight and Sunburst back to the Crystal Empire to visit Flurry Heart, only to discover that the entire Empire is in a panic due to the reported presence of Changling spy.

Maybe the comics have spoiled me, but I couldn’t help but think how cool it would have been if the lone Changeling had been the prelude to a grand invasion. The first act with the Crystal Empire being worried that the Changeling could be anyone was greatly effective. Of course, the overall point of the story isn’t one of grandeur. It’s meant to convey yet another message of friendship, though this time with a different backdrop.

The main idea of the story is lineage, or one’s association. The Changelings in their appearance way back in the epic “A Canterlot Wedding” appeared almost as mindless drones. When one thinks of a Changeling, it’s associated with the sinister Queen Chrysalis. Therefore, if one of them were to appear, everyone would think the worst. But what the episode conveys is that one shouldn’t be judged on lineage or a stereotype. The son of a killer for example shouldn’t be judged on association. Just because he’s related to a criminal doesn’t mean he has to be a criminal as well. Thorax’s (the lone Changeling) plot was engaging. The flashback to ‘Wedding’ was very effective since we got to see things from his perspective.

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Spike’s role this season has been his finest. All of his prior development finally transformed him into one of the show’s most engaging characters. He was pretty solid here mostly. The inhabitants adoring him and his giving orders to the royal guards was a bit on the silly side. Also, instead of approaching Shining Armor about Thorax, why didn’t he confide in Twilight about the situation? Some of the happenings in the middle act could have been avoided. With that said, there’s some very powerful moments. The viewer can see the sadness on Thorax’s face when the only friend he’s ever had doesn’t stick up for him. Spike going back and making it right was excellent & great character development for him. The climax song was fantastic. Cathy Weseluck had never gotten a full-length song to herself before, so hopefully starting here we’ll hear more with her.

Overall, “The Times They Are A Changeling” is a very solid episode. It packs fantastic emotion and a quality message which unlike the last couple weren’t at the expense of character development. Aside from a few annoying moments here, Spike continues to be a great product of the latest season. The writing duo of Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt deliver a winner.

8/10

 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “28 Pranks Later” Review

I’ve been a My Little Pony fan for years now. I believe the first two seasons were the show’s prime. This is not to say it has been in decline since then, because if it’s one thing the show is good at, it’s that it had always been consistent with delivering quality. That’s why when more average episodes appear a review seems noticeably harsh, because at this point the show deserves to be held to a high standard. That’s why the previous couple of episodes, while not terrible (in comparison to what’s currently airing on television) got pretty low scores. There has never been a truly bad episode of MLP, but when you compare say the the previous episode to a Season 1 installment, the quality is noticeably lower. Season 6 has been definitely the worst season in this regard. Today’s episode continues this mediocrity, though at the very least it’s far more entertaining than the last one.

When Rainbow Dash’s pranking gets out of hand, everypony decides to give her a taste of her own medicine – zom-pony style!

So, what’s wrong with this episode? The show decides to tackle the message of pranks/jokes. Most of us know how to laugh at a well done surprise joke. Sometimes however they’re in bad taste or downright mean. It’s about balance and asking, “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” It’s definitely a pretty good message that the episode drives home at the end. Like “The Cart Before the Ponies” however, the message is at the expense of characterization. In this case, the victim is Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow has been established as a prankster in the past, mainly way back in the Season 1 episode “Griffon the Brush Off” and the Season 2 episode “Luna Eclipsed.” Since then however that part of her character hasn’t been touched upon all that much. Today we see it come back full force. The story doesn’t start out unreasonably. In fact, some of the pranks she pulls in the beginning are pretty funny. Plus, the banter between her and Pinkie Pie about them is great to watch. (Because the two are pretty similar in this regard.) Toward the middle act is where the main problem lies. Rainbow starts pranking all of Ponyville. She even disrupts a school lesson for the sake of a prank. Even for Rainbow, this is unrealistic and completely immature. There’s just no way she would go around doing this to all the citizens. If the school example wasn’t bad enough, she devises a plan to “infect” the girl scout cookies of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Rainbow was written pretty much like a villain most of the time here.

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The final act saves the episode from being just a mess of characterization. For pop culture fans, the title of this episode is of course a reference to the film 28 Days Later. The last 10 minutes parodies the plot of that movie in a very entertaining way. “(It’s also a tease, because the viewer now knows how awesome a real zombie apocalypse in Ponyville would be.) As started earlier, the message is delivered pretty well in the end. It’s a shame it was done with a villainous Rainbow Dash. Also, I believe it was a mistake to spoil the plan to make Dash understand the error of her ways in the description. It would have been far more entertaining to watch the events unfold without that prior knowledge.

Overall, 28 Pranks Later is a pretty fun episode, though the writing takes it way overboard with Rainbow Dash’s antics. At the very least, there’s some good dialogue between her and Pinkie. (F.M De Marco should write a team-up episode with the two.) There are other little annoying things not mentioned above, such as bringing back Fluttershy being scared of nothing for the sake of the story. While I greatly enjoy these slice of life adventures, Season 6 really needs an “important” episode to bring back its steam.

6/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Cart Before the Ponies” Review

It’s a nice thing to have My Little Pony back on the air. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to start the weekend. Last week’s episode put the spotlight on Rainbow Dash and brought back the Indiana Jones-inspired pony, Daring Do. It was also slightly meta, introducing a brand new character that represented a rather stubborn critic. Even though the writing wasn’t particularly great at some points, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” was still memorable. Today’s installment is also memorable, though for the wrong reason. It’s not the worst episode (though I’m having trouble thinking of a worse one) but it’s definitely on the lower spectrum of the show.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are excited for the chance to race in the annual Applewood Derby – until their teammates Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash take over the competition.

So, what puts this episode as a lower tier one? Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all are written very terribly for the sake of the lesson. Simultaneously these are their worst portrayals in the show. As stated in the description, the story’s main setting is a race, and the fillies are each allowed to ask for assistance from an older pony. The Cutie Mark Crusaders naturally ask their big sisters (well, sister in spirit for Scootaloo) which is of course welcome, and should make for a fun story. But, the three older ponies are written as unreasonable and stubborn. Almost from the start they take the race for themselves, thinking they’re the ones competing, not the fillies. To justify this, the writing throws in some backstory. The two biggest examples are Rarity’s, where she wants to win after dealing with a second place prize a long time ago, and Applejack’s, whom wants to keep with tradition. The episode really starts to falter here.

Throughout the middle act it seemed like the three Mane 6 members lost touch with reality and became downright mean. Every time the Crusaders would apply features (such as cardboard wings for example) to the cart, their older member would rudely remove them. Perhaps the worst scene was when Applejack threatened Apple Bloom with, “So are you an Apple, or are you an Apple?” when the latter wanted to make a more modern cart as opposed to a traditional one. Just about all the lines from the Mane 6 members were very jarring and forced for the story. It’s simple to see what the message was going for: saying that older people aren’t 100% always right and should listen to the opinions of their siblings/younger people. A message however should never be at the cost of quality characters.

This is not to say there weren’t some things to like. Writer Ed Valentine has a great handle of the Crusaders. The viewer sympathizes with them the entire time. The actual race was also fun. (It reminded me of Wacky Races.) The ending sadly is anticlimactic since we don’t see the actual ending to the race…which was the main part of the plot!

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Overall, Cart is definitely more of a mediocre episode. The message isn’t necessarily negative, but it’s at the cost of our favorite characters. At the very least, Crusader fans will be pleased with their portrayal.

5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Stranger than Fan Fiction” Review

After a few months hiatus, My Little Pony returns for its second half of Season 6. By now there’s no need to discuss things generally speaking. If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know I consider Season 6 to be the weakest season so far. This doesn’t equate to bad of course, because the show is still leagues ahead of what is currently on television. It’s just when compared to the early seasons the episodes here have been of lesser quality. Today’s episode isn’t an immensely notable one. It is by no means terrible, or even a bad watch, just more on the average side.

Rainbow Dash attends the Daring Do Convention in Manehattan and meets a pony who hates Daring Do as much as she loves it.

Written by Josh Haber and Michael Vogel

This episode has two main parts, the first being at the convention and the next being the Daring Do adventure. First, the convention scenes were very well done. It’s accurate to how a real life pony, or any kind of pop culture event would be. We can see the genuine excitement on Rainbow Dash’s face throughout these parts. Perhaps the best scene is when she runs into another hardcore fan like herself, by the name of Quibble Pants. Again, this is accurate to a real life convention. When you meet someone whom has a heavy interest in a specific area, whether it be pony, Trek, or Japanese monsters there’s a cool little connection as two discuss things only true fans can talk about. These early scenes were fun. Sadly, the writing takes a dip in quality during the second act.

I applaud the show for talking about a great lesson, and that’s on the subject of opinions. Rainbow Dash thinks all the Daring Do books are excellent, especially the latter entries. Quibble on the the other hand can’t stand the latter ones, and refuses to acknowledge them. This leads to some heated discussion between the two characters. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because often a lesson is learned after a hardship. The problem is that Quibble starting from the opening argument becomes a very jarring character to listen to. The ironically annoying part is that he proves to be seemingly smarter than Daring Do herself, showing her how to do her job in the climax.

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The overall message is that it’s okay for fans to have differing opinions on their favorite subject. For example, many Star Trek fans seem to agree that Nemesis is one of the worst films in the series, but what if a person says it actually isn’t that bad? Another example might be a Godzilla fan claiming Final Wars to be actually pretty good when many consider it to be one of the worst in the series. Instead of fans attacking one another, they should discuss things in a happy manner. So, it’s definitely a good lesson. A lot of the dialogue in the second half from Quibble, which is the constant mocking of the situation before realizing he’s in real danger was cliche and fell flat. As for Rainbow Dash herself, she wasn’t bad. The only hard-to-believe scene is that she would go out of her way and talk to Daring Do to get the latter to convince Quibble that all the books are good.

Overall, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” isn’t a 5 star episode, but still an okay watch. The message is something any fan of pop culture can understand and appreciate. The dynamic between Rainbow Dash and Quibble was good in the beginning, & in the final few minutes. In-between is where most of the negatives are. The viewers have to deal with the annoying dialogue from Quibble when they want to see more of Daring Do since she has been absent from the show for quite awhile.

6.5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Spice Up Your Life” Review

Today’s episode of MLP is a bit on the sad side. It’s not because it’s extra emotional, but that it marks the final one until later in the year. Mid-season breaks are always disappointing, but good in a way as well. (The wait between seasons are shortened.) So today is a farewell installment for now. Interestingly, the story brings back the Friendship Map, which hasn’t been seen since the Season 5 finale.  This time, the Brave and the Bold duo is Rarity and Pinkie Pie. Michael Vogel wrote the superb “A Hearth’s Warming Tail,” so “Spice Up Your Life” was in good hands. This episode was definitely a much better one than what we’ve seen these last few weeks.

Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:

Pinkie Pie and Rarity are called to Canterlot by the map to solve a friendship problem. They discover a father and daughter whose relationship is strained as they struggle to keep their restaurant open.

What’s interesting about the Friendship Map is that it picks two ponies for a specific job. It’s not random; rather it picks them knowing their specific traits will be the best way to help fix a problem. Rarity and Pinkie Pie have never really had the focus on them together, (besides “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” though Maud took away from that focus) so that alone is enough to be extra interested in “Spice.” The two play off each other well throughout. Rarity is more fancy, looking for 3 star review restaurants, while Pinkie doesn’t care about stuff like that and just wants to eat good food, even if the place has no reviews. Vogel has a solid handle on their personalities. The action gets really interesting when they journey into a restaurant on the verge of closing down since there’s no customers. (Sort of reminds me of Babu’s predicament in his debut episode in Seinfeld.)

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The last few seasons have done a solid job at introducing fun new side characters. It’s particularly pleasing to hear such an amount of attention to the voice acting, something MLP has always excelled in. Saffron Masala was a fun character to have around. The writing does a solid job showing the intense emotion she has because of the disagreement on the restaurant business with her father, Corlander Cumin. He wasn’t quite as fun, but it’s easy to see what the episode was aiming for: showing a disgruntled store owner. For the most part the story succeeds at doing that. What it falls short in however is the character of Zesty Gourmand. Again, it’s easy to see what the writing was going for: a reviewing snob whom thinks her word is law. She was however just a little too exaggerated to take seriously.

Perhaps the most interesting part was how the disagreement between Rarity and Pinkie came about. People have different opinions on how things should be done. In the episode’s context, Rarity believes that in order for the restaurant to get a good review it should try to mimic the ones which have the full three stars. Pinkie on the other hand believes the opposite: the restaurant needs its own unique flavor. The argument between the two was fun to watch. The resolution seemed pretty fast, but also shows that the two friends can move past a dispute and get back to the issue at hand pretty quickly. The song was fun, though it seems the budget may have ran out since it reuses the same scene three times over.

Overall, “Spice Up Your Life” was a fun team up adventure. At its core, it’s about Pinkie and Rarity helping out a struggling family business. There’s nothing particularity negative about it, other than Zesty. The other new characters, especially Saffron, are good. It’s not a masterpiece, but still a nice watch on a Saturday afternoon. These duo episodes are some of the most entertaining in MLP.

8/10