Friday, October 28, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Saving Time

Season 20, Episode 11: Saving Time
Written By Andrew Brenner

Ah, Samson...I sadly haven't been a fan of you or your episodes-mostly because they feel very formulaic, but hopefully our next episode in Season 20 will make me think different about you...let's take a look at 'Saving Time'!

Samson and Thomas has been assigned the same task of taking stone from the Blue Mountain Quarry to Brendam Docks, but Samson tries to show everyone how important he is by taking more trucks than he should insisting that it will save time.  Much like 'Over The Hill', we had no idea what this episode was going to be about and it made us all the more excited to find out...but when we eventually did find out, I wasn't too keen when I found out that this was going to be a Samson episode.  But I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and I was actually left surprised.

Now, the main problem with Samson episodes are that you've pretty much seen them all if you've seen at least one since they all follow a similar pattern of Samson being given a job and thinking that he's better than everyone else by trying to do more than he should...and that plays a factor into the story since it follows the pattern of Samson's previous episodes and honestly felt predictable...however, I will say that this is actually Season 18's 'Samson At Your Service' done right as there actually was a clever reason behind Samson's arrogance and it does manage to provide some good comedy among the characters.

As for the animation, there really isn't much to talk about without me repeating myself from past reviews...but I will say that I love a lot of the different camera angles and shots especially when Samson is trying to make his way over Gordon's Hill, so I have to give kudos to Arc for once again delivering some awesome animation.

And when it comes to the characters...while Samson is still his arrogant and pompous self, he's not as annoying as he could've been like he was back in Season 18 as there was actually a reason behind him acting this way in the form of Thomas' cheekiness...and while some would say that this was another episode where Thomas felt shoe-horned, I think what they did with him was actually really clever especially with how he gets punished for his cheekiness by being Samson's back engine-bravo to Joseph May and Robert Wilfort for another awesome performance!

Overall, 'Saving Time' may not be the best episode of Season 20...but it's easily Samson's best episode to date and gets a rating of an 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: To Where And Back Again

Season 6, Episodes 25-26: To Where And Back Again
Written By Josh Haber

Well, everypony…this is it: the Season 6 finale of ‘My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic’, coming to us from writer Josh Haber…who actually turns out to be leaving MLP after this episode. But after last season’s interesting but weak finale, can Haber make a massive improvement to go out with a bang? Let’s end Season 6 with ‘To Where And Back Again’!

Without the help of Twilight Sparkle and the Mane Six, Starlight Glimmer assembles an unlikely team of heroes to defend Equestria from the return of one of its greatest threats-Queen Chrysalis and her Changeling army!  I'll be honest, I've been excitedly anticipating this episode for quite some time because...ever since Thorax first appeared in the season premiere and later on had an episode to himself with Spike, I knew right away that the finale was more than likely gonna involve a return of Queen Chrysalis and her Changelings...but fan-favorite villains returning doesn't automatically make it a great episode because I also knew that this was also gonna be Starlight Glimmer's big moment to shine in the series to the point where I was even theorizing about who she was gonna have on her team and did it all come together for an truly awesome finale?  Yes, yes it did.

When it comes to the story, the set-up is fantastic as so many elements from episodes in this season all came together without us seeing it coming especially with things like how Starlight's friendship with Trixie actually playing a central role.  Not only that, but I praise the staff for properly setting up Starlight's motivation and conflict into an Equestria-wide threat like Chrysalis...which I actually have to admit that her second attempt at a plan to take over Equestria is much better planned out than how it was back in 'A Canterlot Wedding' and it actually reveals the deeper meaning behind the newly released Guardians Of Harmony toys...and while I would question how the Changelings managed to kidnap so many ponies without anyone raising the alarm, but then I'm sure many of us in the fandom would cry foul if the staff actually showed that happening because it actually gives us time to appreciate the ego-driven personalities of characters like Trixie and Discord...but I'll get to that in a second when I talk about the characters.

As for the animation...we may have only gotten a hint of world building about the Changeling kingdom back in 'The Times They Are A Changeling', but this episode took so many more chances to delve deeper into the world building of the kingdom and it really comes to play with things like the design of the kingdom from the outside to the inner working with things like the throne room-even Chrysalis' unsettling and quite disturbing initial reveal to Starlight in the climax...and while many in the fandom have cried foul over the new designs for the Changelings after they get reformed, I actually think they look pretty maybe this was how they looked before Chrysalis intentionally misled them all in order to keep them in her service despite already knowing the truth.

And when it comes to the characters, Discord was right in saying that it was quite a combination of secondary characters as this is actually the first season finale to not focus on Twilight and the rest of the Mane 6 but rather three reformed villains and a character who never wanted to be evil to begin with.  Starting with Starlight, this set-up truly was her big moment to shine in the series as she wasn't really scared of being rejected by the ponies in her old village but rather being trusted to step up as a leader by those that she wronged all the way back in Season 5.  As for Trixie, who wants to bet that she only tagged along on this rescue mission just so she could have something to gloat to Twilight about for the rest of their lives?  As for Discord, I praise Haber and the staff for not taking the easy route and making it clear that he couldn't just save everypony with a snap of his talons or with Starlight and her immense amount of spells.  And now we come to Queen Chrysalis herself who I'm proud to say hasn't changed a bit since we last saw her-she's still her deceitful and manipulative self even to the point where she used Discord's feelings for Fluttershy against him...quite a disturbing set of mindgames on the Lord Of Chaos if you ask me...and I'm so thankful that Haber and the staff didn't try to reform Chrysalis at all and are instead keeping her around as a threat for future seasons...maybe a backstory episode explaining her past and how she became who she is today, possibly?

Just when I thought there wasn’t gonna be an episode this season to top ‘A Hearth’s Warming Tail’, ‘To Where And Back Again’ comes in and knocks it out of the park to give it a rating of a 10 out of 10 since it brought everything that had been built up this season to a close in the best way possible…and that’s what I love the most about Season 6 as it picked up right where Season 5 had left off with the story arcs that it had closed like the CMC earning their cutie marks or Starlight Glimmer giving up her evil ways to become Twilight’s apprentice in friendship and expanded upon them like how the CMC are going about their lives helping ponies with cutie mark problems…and not only did it close even more story arcs like Rainbow Dash finally becoming a Wonderbolt and Starlight Glimmer’s redemption coming full circle, but it opened up so many more new story arcs as well…and while some episodes in this season fell flat like ‘Applejack’s Day Off’ or ‘The Cart Before The Ponies’, a majority of the episodes in Season 6 hit bullseyes…and much like ‘Twilight’s Kingdom’ back in Season 4, everything about ‘To Where And Back Again’ set a new standard for Friendship Is Magic and I would honestly be fine if they ended here as it feels like a good conclusion…but no, we get more and I’m fine with that too since I can’t wait to see where they go with these new set-ups. This was a great way to close a great season, here’s to Season 6 with an overall score of a 9 out of 10 hereby making it in my opinion the best season of MLP....and with that said, I'm True Blue and I'll see you all for Season 7!  Until next time, stay awesome 'cause friendship is magic!

MLEEP Reviews: Top Bolt

Season 6, Episode 24: Top Bolt
Written By Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco

Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash…we don’t really have that many episodes with the two of you together, so it’s quite a treat when we do get one of these in a season…much like this week’s episode, so let’s take a look at ‘Top Bolt’!

Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle are sent to Wonderbolt Academy to help two friends, Vapor Trail and Sky Stinger, solve an important friendship problem that is keeping them from getting into the academy.  When I first heard about this episode, I was actually rather intrigued because…now that Rainbow Dash is finally a Wonderbolt, she has to be seen as an inspiration to so many ponies who want to follow her dream…but did this turn out to be an episode of my dreams?  Yes, yes it did!

When it comes to the story…unlike ‘Pony Point Of View’ and ‘Where The Apple Lies’ which relied on formulas that we’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of times before in other media, this episode is actually one of those that makes you step back and ponder your own life especially since it focused on a conflict that you don’t see very often or at all and the way that the characters were written as well as the moral of how even the best intentions for those who we want to succeed and find happiness or purpose in their lives can lead to negative consequences really helped to make this episode stand out from others…also, who didn’t love the comedy spread throughout the episode?  I mean, I’m sure the writers were constantly trying to make Rainbow Dash the butt of all the jokes and it works really well.

As for the animation…much like what they did with the Ponyville Hospital in ‘Where The Apple Lies’, DHX is once again expanding upon existing locations and doing more with them especially with this episode where we get to see the Wonderbolt Academy again with old favorites like the Dizzitron to new locations like the classroom…not to mention the flying montages look simply beautiful as I can tell that the animators were trying a whole bunch of new tricks and techniques.

And when it comes to the characters…with the way that the story and moral are presented, they couldn’t have chosen any better characters since Twilight thought it was better to tell the brash and overconfident Sky Stinger what he was doing wrong so he could improve while Rainbow Dash didn’t want to crush his confidence…neither did Vapor Trail, who really made me wonder how many soft-spoken and timid characters we’ve gotten in the series so far-I mean, we have…Fluttershy, Coco Pommel, Marble Pie, and now Vapor Trail and Angel Wings…is this gonna be a recurring thing with the show introducing more and more of these kind of characters?

Overall, ‘Top Bolt’ soared its way to the top of the class to get a rating of a 10 out of 10…and here’s hoping that the season finale ends this year with a bang!  Until then, see ya next time!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Where The Apple Lies

Season 6, Episode 23: Where The Apple Lies
Written By Dave Rapp

Ah, Apple Bloom…my favorite member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders who tries every day to be like her big sister Applejack, but what would happen if she didn’t embrace her sister’s element?  Let’s find out the truth with ‘Where The Apple Lies’!

When Apple Bloom tells a white lie to cover up a mistake, Applejack shares the embarrassing story of how she came to value honesty following a series of lies that almost destroyed the farm and landed the whole Apple family in the hospital.  When this episode was first announced, I was excitedly saying to myself ‘oh my gosh, are we finally getting the episode where we find out what happened to Applejack and Big McIntosh’s parents?!?’…I mean, my expectations for this episode were incredibly high.  So, I went in expecting an episode of my dreams and…while nothing at all like I thought it was gonna be, it was still pretty good for what it was.

When it comes to the story…it may suffer from the predictable ‘liar revealed’ formula that I can’t stand in any form of media and while some would call this Season 2’s “The Last Roundup” all over again, I actually think that this is that episode done right in terms of the great set-up for the familiar characters that we’ve come to know over the years as they show their youthful and prideful need to prove themselves to others even to the point of short-sidedness where they end up making things worse…in fact, this episode even out-schools Season 2’s ‘Sweet & Elite’ which also used this very same ‘little white lies’ set-up and yet Rarity got off scot-free for them!

As for the animation, it’s great that DHX have been expanding on existing locations throughout the series and doing more with them since we’re mostly at the Ponyville Hospital for this episode and we get to see so much more of the building itself with things like the waiting room where we see Screw Loose make a return ever since Season 2’s ‘Read It And Weep’ to the operating theater where the climax of the episode takes place…not only that, but there were plenty of Easter eggs spread throughout the episode from the two little girls that were seen in ‘The Shining’ to possibly figuring out why Derpy got her crossed eyes that she has today.

And when it comes to the characters, I personally loved how Applejack came to value her element of honesty after she kept making everything worse and how Big Mac was always around to point out what she was doing wrong yet was contributing to the problem all along…in fact, we even find out the rather intriguing reason why Big Mac has become a pony of a few words like ‘eeyup’ or ‘nope’.  Not only that, but it was also great getting to see more of the humble businessman Filthy Rich and his fiancĂ© Spoiled…Milk?!?  Kind of a weird maiden name if you ask me, but it makes sense since I wanted to toss her in the garbage when she was first introduced!

Overall…while ‘Where The Apple Lies’ wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, it turned out to be a pretty great episode and I have to give it a rating of a 9.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Love Me Tender

Season 20, Episode 10: Love Me Tender
Written By Davey Moore

Ah, Donald and of the Thomas fandom's favorite set of twins that sadly haven't gotten an episode to themselves since Season 7's "Bad Day At Castle Loch", but that all changes in our final festive episode for Season 20-Love Me Tender!

Donald and Douglas argue over which tracks to clear of snow, but their arguing soon leads to trouble as Douglas is soon left stranded in the snow without his tender.  When I first heard about this episode, I was extremely excited to see it at the thought of the Scottish twins returning to the series and getting an episode to themselves after so many years...but did my excitement pay off for the best?  Yes, yes it did!

When it comes to the story, it can easily be described as Season 6's "Twin Trouble" done right as it was much more action-packed and intense than that episode and it felt like there was a lot more on the line (no pun intended!) considering the time of year that the story takes place...not to mention that I love the re-introduction of Donald and Douglas to the younger fans who are unfamiliar with them as well as the references to both the episodes "Twin Trouble" and "The Deputation".

As for the animation, the team at Arc truly knows how to capture each time of the year-especially winter and it really comes to play during the dramatic sequences of Douglas' tender coupling snapping as well as Donald searching for his brother especially at the end against the twilight-lit sky.

And when it comes to the characters, the sibling rivalry and bond between Donald and Douglas is spot-on as...while Donald is headstrong and Douglas is more irritable to the point where they fight constantly, they will always be there for each other-bravo to Rob Rackstraw and Joe Mills for providing a sensational performance as our favorite Scots!

Overall, "Love Me Tender" is not an excellent way to welcome Donald and Douglas back into the series, but it's an episode that I truly love on a personal level and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10...until next time, Merry Christmas!

MLEEP Reviews: Over The Hill

Season 20, Episode 9: Over The Hill
Written By Helen Farrall

Ah, Glynn The feels so great to see you back in working order after so many years, but I wonder how you're getting on with your new life up at Ulfstead Castle.  Let's find out with the fourth of our five festive episodes for Season 20-Over The Hill!

Stephen has become jealous of the Earl obsessing over Glynn working at Ulfstead Castle, so he challenges him to a race to see who is the fastest and who will end up becoming an exhibit in the Earl's railway museum.  When this episode was first announced, no one knew what it was going to be about...but that made us all the more excited to see it because it kept us guessing as to what it was going to be about and the end result was simply brilliant.

When it comes to the story, it was an awesome dive into the personalities and psyches of both Stephen and Glynn as writer Helen Farrall not only referenced their prototypes' histories with events like the Rainhill Trials that Stephen competed in as well as the adventures that both engines have had throughout their time on Sodor like Stephen finding King Godred's crown in 'King Of The Railway'...but I think this was also her way of poking fun at the wacky antics that the elderly can get up to especially with that epic burn to Gordon from the two old-timers and I have to wonder if the Earl building a railway museum has anything to do with the upcoming episodes on the 'Extraordinary Engines' DVD coming out next year.  Also, 'Eye Of The Tiger' in Thomas...brilliant, just brilliant!

As for the animation, it's great that the team at Arc are expanding upon existing locations in the series and doing more with them and it really comes into play during the tour of Ulfstead Castle during the winter season...not to mention that I love the old-time sepia tone film flashback at the beginning of the story showing Glynn's past before Thomas started work on his branch line.

And when it comes to the characters, Glynn and Stephen were both in top form as neither character was the villain as it was a form of jealousy that we all know and can identify with in terms of the competitive set-up which leads into great comedy supplied by the two engines...bravo to Bob Golding and Keith Wickham for an outstanding performance as our two old-time trains!

Overall, "Over The Hill" is a excellent episode about respecting the elderly and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: The Railcar And The Coaches

Season 20, Episode 8: The Railcar And The Coaches
Written By Davey Moore

Ah, Daisy...the classy and sassy diesel railcar that started it all for me in terms of the TV series back when I was two years old and it feels so great to have you back after so many years in the third of our five festive episodes for Season 20-The Railcar And The Coaches!

Daisy is sent to work on Thomas' branch line while he's on quarry duty, but when she is extremely rude to Annie and Clarabel...the two coaches have a plan of their own to get back at her.  When I first heard about this episode, I was excited that Daisy was finally getting an episode to herself after so many years and the fact that she would be sharing the spotlight with Annie and Clarabel made me even more excitement...but did my excitement pay off for the best?  Yes, yes it did.

When it comes to the story, not only did it give a great re-introduction to Daisy for the younger fans who are unfamiliar with her as well as provide continuity from her debut episode with how she treats Annie and Clarabel...but the way that the three branch line beauties were written was great as well as the moral of how two wrongs don't make a right (insert Fairly Oddparents reference here)-not to mention that the ending punishment Annie and Clarabel receive was friggin' hilarious!

As for the animation, it's great that the team at Arc are expanding upon existing locations in the series and doing more with them and it really comes into play during the opening sequence where we get to see Arlesburgh Harbor again after the events of 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' as well as finally getting our first look at Harwick Station-not to mention that Daisy is beautifully rendered to match her model series and real life counterpart.

And when it comes to the characters, they play off each other brilliantly as it's so great to see that Daisy hasn't changed a bit since the last time we saw her so many years ago-she's classy, sassy and extremely boastful...not to mention quite funny when Annie and Clarabel put ideas into her head.  Speaking of Annie and Clarabel, it's great to see these two get another episode to themselves after Season 18's "Not So Slow Coaches" I said, the ending was hilarious as they get their "just desserts" for being unkind to Daisy by having Diesel pull them instead.

Overall, "The Railcar And The Coaches" is an excellent way to welcome Daisy back into the series and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: The Christmas Coffeepot

Season 20, Episode 7: The Christmas Coffeepot
Written By Helen Farrall

Ah, 'The Adventure Begins' all-time favorite Thomas special for adapting the stories that started it all and made them better than ever before, but one thing was left unanswered: what did happen to Glynn after Thomas got his branch line and why wasn't he at Ffarquhar in Season 19 or 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure'?  Time to find out with the second of our five festive episodes-The Christmas Coffeepot!

Marion is sent to clear an disused siding on Thomas' branch line, but she is amazed when she finds a talking Christmas tree...when it turns out to be something even more special-Glynn The Coffeepot Engine.  I'll be honest, I was extremely excited to see this episode at the thought of Glynn returning to the series especially since I've voiced him in both a community remake and two redubs of the special 'The Adventure Begins' and I must say that his re-introductory episode turned out to be pretty good.

When it comes to the story, it did a great job of answering the question of what happened to Glynn after the events of 'The Adventure Begins' and I like how they keep Glynn hidden for the first half of the episode before he is finally revealed...but it does ask the question of who moved him from siding to siding and didn't tell Sir Topham Hatt about his existence-not to mention that the humor is hit-or-miss because of Marion herself, but I'll get to that in a second when I discuss the characters.

As for the animation...much like last episode, the team at Arc truly knows how to capture the winter season and it really comes into play with the many pine Christmas trees around Thomas' branch line...on top of that, Glynn's design still looks incredible even with rust and tree branches on him-not to mention that the dramatic music when Glynn fears he'll be scrapped really makes you feel sorry for him.

And when it comes to the characters, it's so great that writer Helen Farrall expanded upon the friendship between Thomas and Glynn ever since they first met in 'The Adventure Begins' since Thomas was willing to do anything he could to save the engine who used to run his branch line and Glynn gets his wish to be Really Useful again at work with Stephen and Millie up at Ulfstead Castle.  As for Marion, I like her for her innocence and comedy...but seriously, what was she smoking?!?  I'm pretty sure she now thinks the miniature engines made the Christmas tree talk...

Overall, "The Christmas Coffeepot" was a great way to welcome Glynn back into the series and gets a rating of an 8 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Letters To Santa

Season 20, Episode 6: Letters To Santa
Written By Helen Farrall

Ah, Percy and of the best friendship rivalries from the classic series that hasn't really been seen in the current series ever since Season 6's "A Bad Day For Harold"...but that all changes in our first of five festive episodes for Season 20-Letters To Santa!

Percy is cross with Harold for thinking that helicopters are better than trains in snowy weather, but when Harold doesn't return to Sodor after delivering his Christmas's Percy to the rescue!  When I first heard about this episode, I was excited to see it because it had been so long since we saw an episode that strengthened Percy and Harold's friendship and I'm happy to say that this episode did not disappoint.

When it comes to the story, it can easily be described as Season 6's "A Bad Day For Harold" done right as it was much more action-packed and intense than that episode and it felt like there was a lot more on the line (no pun intended!) considering the time of year that the story takes place...not to mention that the moral of Christmas being a time of goodwill to people, engines and even helicopters is truly heartwarming-heck, we even got a flashback recreation of Season 2's "Percy Proves A Point"!

As for the animation, the team at Arc truly knows how to capture each time of the year-especially winter and it really comes to play during the dramatic sequences of Harold trying to catch up to Percy and Hiro...but it can also be heartwarming as well like the ending sequence of the Town Square on Christmas Day-not to mention that the music truly knows how to capture each scene in the story.

And when it comes to the characters, Percy and Harold were in top form as they not only played off each other brilliantly...but they learn that they can be useful in their own ways and it strengthens their friendship-bravo to Christopher Ragland and Kerry Shale for delivering some perfect performances!

Overall, "Letters To Santa" will give you exactly what you want in a Christmas episode of Thomas and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Pony Point Of View

Season 6, Episode 22: Pony Point Of View
Written By Michael P. Fox & Wil Fox

You know…I love boating trips.  Whether it’s been here in the states or on the other side of the world, I always love the feeling of being on the sea…but it seems a boating trip has caused a rift between our friends in Equestria.  Let’s take a look at ‘Pony Point Of View’!

When Applejack, Rarity and Pinkie Pie return from a boating trip angry at each other, Twilight Sparkle must discern the truth to save their friendships after hearing three very different versions of the events.  When I first heard about this episode and read that this was gonna be a Rashomon effect-style episode, I was immediately skeptical since…in all the television shows I’ve seen, this formula has had good examples like the SpongeBob Squarepants episode ‘Friend Or Foe?’ and it’s also had its bad examples like the VicTORious episode ‘Who Did It To Trina?’…but I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and to my surprise...this was actually a decent episode

While most of the elements in the story can easily be seen coming from a mile away like how each version of the story would ultimately be wrong, it really was quite entertaining to see and hear how each pony views the others by exaggerating the qwirks in their personalities without going over the top.  Not only that, but it is actually quite interesting with how you're trying to figure exactly how everything went wrong at the same time as Twilight is...not to mention that the anti-climax was extremely entertaining and that the writers pulled off the moral of the episode in how misunderstandings can tear friendships apart quite well.

While the story may be predictable, it gave the animators an excuse to have fun with their work based on the story's premise from Captain Applejack sailing on the high seas in a 'Moby Dick'-esque adventure to one of Rarity's dresses resembling that from the movie 'Titanic'...although I question why she didn't have that particular costume on first to better set-up the capsizing of the ship.

And when it comes to the characters, they may have been effected because of the story that the writers chose to go with for this episode...but like I said, it was entertaining to hear the different perspective from each pony and it really does help to bring out the moral as well...bravo to Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman and Tabitha St. Germain for some sensationally seaworthy performances!

Overall, 'Pony Point Of View' may be predictable...but it is still an entertaining episode and gets a rating of a 7 out of 10.