Saturday, 8 July 2017

Equestria Girls special review: "Mirror Magic"

And that's a wrap. This is the last piece of Equestria Girls content we're getting this year. Three shorts, 66 minutes, and yet not a single note of substance. "Mirror Magic" is easily the worst of the three shorts, rehashing ideas from earlier two-parters while piling on other tiresome tropes and possessing absolutely no emotional resonance whatsoever. All three shorts are vacuous and mostly unimaginative, but whatever positive qualities were present in the other two are largely absent here. It does nothing to move the series forward, isn't particularly funny, and is filled to the brim with lazy storytelling and characterization. It is an absolute waste of time.

If you'd asked me last year, I would have said that Equestria Girls should really expand into being a proper series. Now, I just want it to be over with already. None of these shorts demonstrates even the slightest interest in exploring what actually has potential about this world and these characters, and that would be fine if they weren't also committed to these hollow, derivative, thorougly tired storylines. "Mirror Magic" has a bad villain, a predictable structure, limp gags, and one-note characterization, and I do not understand why it exists. It's stagnation of the worst kind, and completely absent from it is the heart and charm which drew me to My Little Pony in the first place.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Equestria Girls special review: "Movie Magic"

Okay, so "Dance Magic" was a fluke. This second short, "Movie Magic," is still low-stakes and impersonal, but it's a lot funnier than the first short, and makes much better use of both the Rainbooms' character traits and some of their magical powers as well. While I may dream of nuanced character arcs and satisfying narrative payoff, all I really ask of My Little Pony in all forms is that it's entertaining. I always felt that "Movie Magic" had the most potential of these shorts, and although it would benefit from being a bit snappier story-wise, the pacing is still brisk enough, and there's enough fun jokes and neat character moments this time around to entertain. Nice!

Equestria Girls special review: "Dance Magic"

Up until now, Equestria Girls has only told stories equivalent to the main show's two-part episodes. Even Legend of Everfree, which tried to incorporate several slice-of-life elements, eventually came back to having a magical villain threaten the camp, and the three films before that established high stakes from the beginning. As fun as some of these movies are, much of this series' appeal is in seeing familiar faces in this new, mundane, relatively familiar setting, and I've always hoped it would focus more on the individual lives of the main characters than on whatever event or villain caught their attention this week. 

"Dance Magic" isn't really that, but it is the first Equestria Girls installment to not feature a magical villain, and it's also by far the most low-stakes entry in the whole series. Considering that, it's a shame that the special is such a simplistic bore, expanding on easily the least interesting part of Legend of Everfree the least interesting way possible, and completely failing to build up to My Little Pony's most basic moral in quite some time. It has more energy than Everfree, but that's not saying much, especially when its story is even emptier. While I enjoy that "Dance Magic" has lower stakes than previous entries, those stakes are so impersonal that the entire story is impossible to care about. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Episode review: "The Perfect Pear"

Melodrama is one of My Little Pony's foundational blocks. So many of the most emotionally affecting episodes of the show are melodramatic in nature, from "The Last Roundup" to "Hurricane Fluttershy" to "Wonderbolts Academy." But starting in season 5, the show's most dramatic episodes have become increasingly grand and pretentious in nature. Even the most naturalistic episodes of this time, "Amending Fences" and "The Mane Attraction," strained to have a greater point and to reflect the show at large, and then there are episodes like "A Royal Problem": tense, overstuffed, high-stakes stories which bear more resemblance to the two-parters than to the melodrama episodes of old.

Until now, the only episode like "Hurricane Fluttershy" in the past few seasons was "The Fault in Our Cutie Marks," that adorable, genuinely moving highlight of season 6. While "The Perfect Pear" has baggage which prevents it from reaching that level, it's every bit as emotionally effective in its own melodramatic, gooey way. It avoids any tough questions and builds on elements which the show never properly established, but goddamit, I wish the show were always this sweet and emotional and adorable. If "A Flurry of Emotions" represents half of what the show has been missing in recent years, "The Perfect Pear" represents the other half.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Episode review: "Discordant Harmony"

Thanks, Australia. 

I am generally biased in favour of Discord. The only episode starring him which I didn't at least enjoy a little was season 5's "What About Discord?," and that episode was meant to be unpleasant. A character who can bend the laws of reality to his will gives a lot of room for funny and creative visuals, and the only thing really holding him back is that he's always seemed like an unpleasant person to be around. He's always appeared emotionally immature and somewhat apathetic about how others feel about his actions, and this has made it increasingly unclear to me why the mane six tolerate him.

Earlier episodes have usually dealt with this either through Discord claiming to teach someone a lesson, or through having Discord himself learn a lesson, and while "Discordant Harmony" mostly leans towards the former, it also does a better job than any episode before it of making him sympathetic and even likeable. Its need to serve up creative visuals still results in Discord irritating almost every pony in his vicinity, but his intentions in this episode are better than ever, and those visuals are pretty creative and delightful anyway. The visuals do a good job of distracting from the exposition, and the moral is rock solid, making for an all-around enjoyable episode.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Episode review: "Not Asking for Trouble"

In any other season, "Not Asking for Trouble" would be a middle-of-the-road throwaway episode. It's simple, it repeats a lot of jokes, and its moral has already been done in this show. In season 7, however, I'm just glad the episode was funny, even though its simplicity wasn't enough to carry the handful of funny gags. Those repeated jokes are at least good on their own, Pinkie Pie is consistently delightful, and it's neat to learn just a little bit more about yak culture, but this is hardly a memorable episode in the grand scheme of the show, even with its small virtues.