Sunday, 28 January 2018

Current numerical scores for My Little Pony media

In mid-2016, I introduced a new scoring system based on four criteria: entertainment/humour, characterization, themes/morals, and story. Each of these is graded out of ten, and are then added together to find a mean grade out of 100. Here, I will list every MLP episode I have graded on this scale, alongside their rating out of 100. For accuracy's sake, I will not attempt to grade episodes entirely on distant memory. Ratings might be subject to change with future rewatches, and this list will expand as I rewatch more episodes (especially since this provides incentive to go through the whole series again). For now, I've rated the following media as follows, out of 100:

Quick update

At the end of my "Shadow Play" review, I promised:
1. a season 7 wrap-up review,
2. a top 10 Worst Episodes list,
3. a top 26 Best Episodes list.

I've not gotten around to the latter two yet, and for that I'm sorry; unless there's particular demand, I've decided not to go forward with the "Worst Episodes" list, as I'm tired of my own negativity towards this show. Such a list would probably look something like this:

  • "Look Before You Sleep"
  • "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well"
  • "Games Ponies Play"
    "Magical Mystery Cure"
  • "Twilight Time"
  • "Somepony to Watch Over Me"
  • "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?"
  • "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows"
  • "What About Discord?"
  • "Hard to Say Anything"
Although, were I willing to stretch beyond the show, Equestria Girls's "Mirror Magic" would absolutely make the cut. In any case. I still want to publish the favourite episodes list, but I haven't seen much of the show in a couple years, and my tastes have surely changed since then. No date promised, but it's still coming; in the meantime, I'll post here my up-to-date list of episode scores, which I'll update as I work through the rest of the show, concluding once I've rated every episode. 

Thank you for your patience. 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Season 7 reflections.

This show needs direction.

I've been saying that for a while. The show has become increasingly scattershot and inconsistent since as far back as season 5, and nobody involved seems to actually understand what to do with the main cast. These past three seasons have all been heavily reliant on new characters, heavy-handed moralizing, and various other crutches - anything to give them an excuse to not actually consider what direction the main characters should go in.

This show has never been serialized, but there used to be certain recurrent themes and clear character arcs. I don't think that's been the case for a while now, and the show has been flailing since season 5. In season 5, the writers tried to compensate by straining for pathos every other episode. Season 6 softened the blow with an endless supply of freewheeling experimentation. But there's a sense of obligation to season 7, like the writers are simply going down a checklist, and even the best episodes ride on the back of easy premises and filled-in blanks. Far too often, characters act as vessels for the moral rather than the other way around, and the show's desperate efforts to do anything other than develop the main characters are more feeble here than ever before.

What the My Little Pony crew forgets is that growing up doesn't mean throwing away the past entirely. The newer seasons are much more intricate than the earlier seasons, but this hasn't always been a change for the better, and few of these new writers seem to understand how to make these characters sing.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Episode review: "Shadow Play"

Last year, I was worried that "To Where and Back Again" would be a by-the-numbers, over-serious finale which just rehashes the same plot points the show had been trucking out for years now. To my delight, it turned out to be something else entirely, and it quickly became one of my favourite two-parters in the entire show. "To Where and Back Again" excelled because it was a character-driven story which focused on the human side of the story rather than the rote details, and as such it was refreshingly light on exposition and action.

Turns out all I had to do was wait a year, however, because "Shadow Play" is exactly what I was worried about back in season 6. It's the worst example yet of the show's increasingly dull mythology, and it's filled with backstory exposition which takes itself way too seriously. There are certainly moments of humour here which bring the episode to life, but the plot is just so formulaic that it's hard to be invested in any of it, and enough of the episode takes itself so seriously that the fun moments can't break the monotony.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Episode review: "Uncommon Bond"

Look, "Uncommon Bond" is perfectly inoffensive. It has a decent moral. The core dilemma is moderately relatable. It's not obnoxious, it doesn't have any structural defects, and doesn't feel lazy. But it's slow, safe, and mundane, and it predicates its entire emotional core on a relationship which hasn't been given much development. It's another season 7 episode which doesn't care about anything other than checking off boxes and getting a moral episode. I mean, at least it's competent and not entirely boring.

But I can't stand this formula anymore. My Little Pony didn't become popular by being this slow and forgettable. And this one also has Starlight once again demonstrating few strong personality traits aside from self-pity and a disregard for others, which can only be offset so much by Trixie being funny and the others being sweet. I just don't like her anymore, and she's a dead weight on an episode which already doesn't do very much to elevate itself.

I feel like I've made all of these complaints before. But I'm just so tired of this stuff.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Episode review: "Secrets and Pies"

There's a small list of My Little Pony episodes which I consider guilty pleasures. These are episodes which have enough clever gags and fun dialogue to keep me happy, but which have bad enough plots that it brings down my enjoyment somewhat. Season 2 had the sloppy but energetic "Putting Your Hoof Down." Season 3 had some of the show's best dialogue layered on top of the asinine "Spike at Your Service." I find these two episodes hugely entertaining, and even though their poor narratives kill my buzz a little, it's not enough to overcome their respective qualities.

Joining this short list is season 7's "Secrets and Pies," which combines a threadbare storyline and off-base characterization with a ceaseless, energetic procession of clever gags. While I've often complained about episodes which don't have enough humour relative to plot, this episode is very much the opposite, with hilarious scene after hilarious scene which still can't help but drag as a result of how inane and thin the actual storyline is. But man, it's just so inventive and so madcap that I found it hard to resist, and it even manages to lessen the guilt somewhat by adding some nice insight at the end.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Episode review: "Once Upon a Zeppelin"

Despite eschewing a lot of the tired story structures of the past, season 7 has several familiar tropes of its own. It's heavily reliant on externally driven stories where a main character is troubled by some external force, and many of these stories are written heavily to theme to the point of tedium. However, these formulas don't always ruin their stories, and many episodes transcended those tropes, either with nuance ("The Perfect Pear") or humour ("Parental Glideance"). 

"Once Upon a Zeppelin" is still a little on-the-nose, and its conflict still has too many external actors, but it's the best example yet of how good jokes and a good moral can overcome smaller issues. It's another contender for the funniest episode this season, packed with sharp character-based humour while also giving more personality to Shining Armour and Twilight's parents. Further, it's one of the few episodes to actually explore how Twilight's new responsibilities affect her usual anxieties, and although it's a bit blunt, the moral of learning to draw boundaries is a rock solid complement for "A Health of Information."