Sunday, April 30, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Rock Solid Friendship

Season 7, Episode 4: Rock Solid Friendship
Written By Nick Confalone
Ah, Maud…you may have come into the show unknown, but you’ve quickly risen to the top of some of the fandom’s favorite characters and it is a very special occasion as today is not only your return into the show…but it is also your graduation day. So, let’s welcome Maud back as well as celebrate her achievement with this week’s episode-Rock Solid Friendship!
When Pinkie Pie learns that Maud might move to Ponyville, she does everything she can to make sure her sister sees that it has more to offer than just rocks. When this episode was announced, I was actually rather excited by the fact that we were seeing more of Maud and the fact that I’ve realized that Season 7 has been putting so much more focus on developing secondary characters that it could possibly be a big part of the show staff’s plan moving forward…but at the same time, I was unsure about this episode since I was getting vibes of Maud’s debut episode from Season 4-don’t get me wrong, I loved ‘Maud Pie’ even to the point where it was one of my Top 5 favorite episodes of the season…but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see the episode done all over again. But I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and I can safely say that this episode rocked…heh heh, no pun intended.
When it comes to the story, who would’ve thought that Maud would have a prior connection to Starlight Glimmer from all the way back in Season 5? I mean, the idea that Starlight might not have ever been able to seal cutie marks away without Maud’s help as well as how one could have the power to take over the world with the right stone and right amount of magic really has me excited for what might be happening further down the line in the series. I know that they play it up for laughs, but you can never tell with a character like Maud and I hope that this plays a part in a future episode at some point…and that moral, how I love it so much. The moral of how you really shouldn’t assume that your methods will always work for someone else even though you may be an expert in a particular subject is such a perfect fit with Pinkie Pie’s excitable nature and is something that we have wanted to see her learn for quite some time…but what would an episode about Pinkie and Maud be without its comedy and we got a ton of it here with highlights like Pinkie’s highly entertaining interactions with her sister and Starlight.
As for the animation, the team at DHX never fails to rock our minds with their creativity and we get some rather amazing visual eye candy here especially with things like Pinkie Pie’s interactions with her sister and Starlight like I said earlier as well as in the gem cave where I swear that the animators were making a reference to ‘Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan’ when Captain Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus walked into that underground garden…and it actually does manage to play a significant part in the story itself, so kudos to all the animators for another job well done!
And when it comes to the characters, the idea that Maud would potentially be moving to Ponyville in the hopes of making a friend with Pinkie Pie’s overly excitable nature being the biggest obstacle towards Maud reaching that goal makes for a very clever conflict as neither one of them were going outside of what we’ve come to expect from them to the point where it feels all the more natural and heartwarming…and while adding Starlight Glimmer to the mix may have been surprising at first, it actually fits extremely well as they are both characters with the same difficulty of socializing with others around them and each of them have their reasons as to why they are that way today…bravo to Ingrid Nilson, Kelly Sheridan and Andrea Libman for some truly rocking performances!
Overall, ‘Rock Solid Friendship’ makes for a truly rocking episode that has ended up becoming one of my favorite episodes of Season 7 and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10…congratulations and rock on, Maud!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: A Flurry Of Emotions

Season 7, Episode 3: A Flurry Of Emotions
Written By Sammie Crawley & Whitney Wetta
Ah, Flurry Heart-the newest member of the Royal Family who I have personally given the nickname of ‘Poof 2.0’ after she nearly doomed her entire empire by destroying the Crystal Heart…I wonder what new chaos she’ll cause this time! Let’s…just get this over with, this is ‘A Flurry Of Emotions’!
After planning a jam-packed day, Twilight Sparkle also agrees to babysit her niece, Flurry Heart. But with Flurry Heart along for the ride, Twilight Sparkle struggles to maintain her title as 'The Best Aunt Ever' while keeping Flurry Heart out of trouble. I'll be honest, I really wasn't looking forward to this episode when it was first announced since I thought that Flurry Heart's storyline was the weakest element of 'The Crystalling' and was hoping for a much better episode after last week's 50/50 mix premiere. But I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and to my turned out to be alright.
When it comes to the story, the majority of it felt like a half-assed rehash of Season 2's 'Baby Cakes' that kept going back and forth between elements that were both good and bad with barely any laughs to keep the episode entertaining unless you're supplying your own jokes and references while watching as well as having a moral that has already been done in the show before with episodes like 'Applebuck Season' and 'Stare Master' that you can easily see coming from a mile away...and this also plays a part in terms of how the characters were written within their different plots, but I'll get to them in a second.
As for the animation, it is great that we are getting more and more of a variety of locations in each episode in this season as we got to visit old locations like Sugarcube Corner where we got to see more Pinkie Pie comedy as well as the Ponyville Hospital where the climax of this episode takes place...heck, we even got to see more of the Ponyville Cafe where the art gallery storyline with Shining Armor and Cadence takes place-so I give kudos to DHX for once again expanding upon old locations and giving the fans more visual eye candy.
And when it comes to the characters...while I do like how Flurry Heart is becoming cuter in her interactions and not having a smile on her face the entire time as well as being overpowered with learning new spells as she grows, I felt that the writers kept going back and forth between giving her the intelligence of a baby and that of an older child. As for Twilight, like I said...we could easily see that Twilight was gonna be overwhelmed with her busy schedule and learn that she couldn't do everything that she wanted to do within the first few minutes...heck, Spike knew what to do all along and we even see him doing what should've been done at the end of the episode-this is actually the third time in this season where we have seen Spike at his best and I hope that we can continue with this!
But where the characters really shone in this episode were in Shining Armor and Princess Cadence as we actually got more of a look into their new positions as parents of a newborn alicorn with elements like Cadence stumbling over her words with how flustered she is and showing that she isn't the Mary Sue-type character that everypony in the fandom has claimed her to be-not only that but as they are going around the gallery and having no idea what to do, it feeds into how much they love and miss their baby even though they may be ragged and exhausted from taking of actually makes me want to see an episode with the three of them together, but I think that this is as close as we are ever going to get to one.
Overall, for an episode that I thought I was gonna hate entirely...'A Flurry Of Emotions' managed to surprise me as well as possibly change my views on Flurry Heart and gets a rating of a 7.5 out of 10. As for next week's episode, let's just say I can tell it's gonna rock...

Monday, April 17, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: All Bottled Up

Season 7, Episode 2: All Bottled Up
Written By Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco

Ever since they first met last season, Starlight Glimmer and Trixie have been the best of fiend-turned friends…but it seems that they may not be friends for long after what happened in today’s episode, so let’s try to contain our emotions with ‘All Bottled Up’!
Starlight Glimmer and Trixie lose Twilight's friendship map via a teleportation spell while the Mane 6 are on a friendship retreat.  Fearing Twilight's reaction to this news, Starlight does a spell to contain her anger while they search for it.  When this episode was first announced, I was actually rather intrigued by both the concept and the fact that we were getting more of Starlight Glimmer and Trixie…but did it result in a worthwhile episode?  Well…yes and no.
When it comes to the story, while I can appreciate this episode for the moral of actions speaking louder than words…this is one of those ‘great on paper, shitty in execution’ episodes in my opinion since the concept was great on paper like I said and yet the way it was executed was poorly handled since the writing for this episode felt pretty predictable when it came to the way that the characters were written as well as the inclusion of our first song of the season ‘Best Friends Until The End Of Time’, which while a good song didn’t feel necessary and only added to the predictability of the episode…but at least there was a good dose of humor to keep the episode entertaining; the highlights being supplied by none other than Bulk Biceps.
As for the animation, unlike in the last episode where we were stuck in Twilight’s castle for the entire episode…we actually get more of a variety with old locations returning with places like Sweet Apple Acres and the Ponyville Spa as well our first new location of the series-Manehattan Escapes, where I can imagine that there will be a lot of people making video parodies of the old Nickelodeon gameshow ‘Legends Of The Hidden Temple’.  Not only that, but the visuals during the song ‘Best Friends Until The End Of Time’ were impressive as well…when they weren’t recycling animation for the chorus verse.
And when it comes to the characters, never in my entire life as a Brony have I related so much with Starlight Glimmer since I feel that the writers took Trixie’s oblivious nastiness and cranked it up to the highest degree because not only was she extremely arrogant and boastful…but even when the castle’s friendship map disappears, Trixie shows no remorse or guilt for what she’s done…even to the point of constantly  bringing up Starlight’s past as a villain resulting in Starlight relapsing as a character to the point where I couldn’t forgive Trixie for what she did.  But for what Kelly Sheridan and Kathleen Barr were given script-wise, I still think that they did a really good job.
Overall, ‘All Bottled Up’ couldn’t contain my emotions for long and gets a rating of a 5.5 out of 10…let’s hope next week’s episode is better (sees that next week is a Flurry Heart episode)  Celestia, help me…

MLEEP Reviews: Celestial Advice

Season 7, Episode 1: Celestial Advice
Written By Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco

Wow…it has been quite a while since I last did one of these, but I have reason to do one now because Season 7 of My Little Pony has come upon us and with it comes our season premiere which has always been a two-parter ever since Season 1…until today, so let’s kick off Season 7 by praising the sun with…Celestial Advice!

Starlight Glimmer's future causes agony for Twilight Sparkle, who gets some helpful advice from her own mentor-Princess Celestia.  I’ll be honest, many people in the fandom including myself have cried out for a Princess Celestia episode for years and it felt like we were finally getting our wish when news of this episode first surfaced…but when the episode finally premiered, was it everything that we ever hoped for?  In all honesty…yes, yes it was!

When it comes to the story, I am amazed and blown away that a show like My Little Pony…a show that was intentionally made for little girls that no one took seriously at first…addressed a very genuine moral of how parents need to move on from their fears of letting go when their child has shown that they have grown to a point as well as bring in the concept of there being spells where you can project your fantasies as if they were real.  On top of that, there was plenty of humor to keep the audience entertained with highlights like Princess Luna struggling to put Thorax’s necklace on and we even got to see some old friends return like Princess Ember and Garble who we haven’t seen since last season in ‘Gauntlet Of Fire’.

As for the animation, there may not be much to offer with this episode since we are inside Twilight’s castle for the entire episode…but where the animation from DHX really shines is in Twilight’s fantasy sequences where she is thinking of the worst possible scenario for Starlight and where we get to see some old locations return like the Changeling hive, the Dragon Lands and the Crystal Empire.  So for what we got, DHX still did an amazing job and it’s great that they haven’t lost their touch.

And when it comes to the characters, this was easily the best portrayal of Princess Celestia in the entire series in my opinion since she allowed Twilight to go through her own learning process and get to the point where she was in complete worry so that Celestia could break the tension and laugh about it in order to connect with what Twilight is going through instead of sitting Twilight down and telling her exactly what she needed to do in order to stop her worrying-bravo to Nicole Oliver for a truly radiant performance!

Overall, ‘Celestial Advice’ makes for a truly radiant start to Season 7 and gets a rating of a 9.5 out of 10…praise the sun!

Shimmer V.S. Glimmer: Seventh Showdown

Throughout the years of Friendship Is Magic, we have seen quite a collection of unique and interesting villains from Nightmare Moon in Season 1 to Tirek in Season 4, but you need to be very careful on how you reform these villains because this is not something that can easily happen in the blink of an eye…and there are two reformed villains who have caused easily one of the biggest flame wars in the fandom since Alicorn Princess Twilight; those two being Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer…who truly deserves that seventh spot among the Mane 6? Let’s get ready to review!

Let’s start with Sunset Shimmer…man, did everypony hate her when she was first introduced?  At that time, Sunset was the most underdeveloped villain of the entire series to most fans since all that we really knew about her was that she was a former student of Princess Celestia who chose a different path because she didn’t get what she wanted right away; that is unless you’ve read the ‘Fall Of Sunset Shimmer’ comic where they expanded upon her backstory and character…and to top it all, we had no foreshadowing to her demon form shown in the climax of the first movie and this only made fans hate Sunset even more.  But then, Rainbow Rocks came along in which the goal was to redeem Sunset among our cast as well as the fandom…and while we weren’t on board for the idea at first, her gradual reformation was executed extremely well since Sunset knew that she couldn’t change the past but could change the future for the better and her song at the end of the climax proved it…and how did they follow this up?  By having her be the star of ‘Friendship Games’ to progress forward as a hero as well as the leader of our main cast in a brilliant role-reversal with the human world’s Twilight Sparkle in order to save Twilight from making the same mistakes as Sunset did as well as guiding her down the right path towards redemption as we saw in ‘Legend Of Everfree’ where Twilight was being haunted by her inner demons.  For being one driven individual, Sunset Shimmer shows that her past does not define her ‘cause her past is not today.

And now, we come to Starlight Glimmer-a reformed villain that has truly divided the fandom in half like never before between those who enjoy her addition and those who can’t stand her; most of that stems back to her sudden reformation at the end of the Season 5 finale after we had seen how insanely manipulative and unapologetically evil she had proven to be in the Season 5 premiere with two plans that were relatively successful all while being snarky and witty and staying one step ahead of Twilight Sparkle…but even then, that all stems back to her reasoning for enslaving a town to steal their cutie marks in the first place as we find out in the Season 5 finale where we saw that she had lost her childhood friend and was afraid to make any new ones since she blamed it on cutie marks.  While some could relate with Starlight in terms of the concept of childhood trauma with losing a childhood friend, others were turned off because it felt rather childish of her and what made it worse was that Starlight was willing to face the consequences of her actions and yet she got off scot-free not once but twice; thus giving her the nickname ‘Sunset Shimmer 2.0’ after what felt like a copy-and-paste routine.  So when  Season 6 came around, many of us weren’t keen on how the show staff would handle her reformation…but as we soon saw, Starlight has proven herself to be a foil to Twilight Sparkle as her new teacher to show her how far she’s come since she became an alicorn princess as well as demonstrate how a person or pony’s best self doesn’t lie solely on their skills…that’s not to say that she isn’t perfect as Starlight is seen to still struggle with not relying on her old methods and it tends to effect those around her in a very personal way; yet she has shown to be her own character with her own strengths and weaknesses as well as facing unique challenges with episodes like stepping out of her comfort zone in ‘Every Little Thing She Does’ and being flexible within a group in ‘To Where And Back Again’.  With a commander type personality, only time will tell if Starlight Glimmer can go even further in becoming an ally among our cast.  But now, it’s time to make a choice…who do I truly believe has earned that seventh spot in the Mane 6?

Well, you all know my answer…Sunset Shimmer!  No offense to Starlight Glimmer, but what makes Sunset Shimmer stand out more is that the fans were excited to see her reform and they wanted her to reform after Sunset had pretty much nothing to accomplish as a villain and we could clearly see that Sunset’s reformation would take time all leading to a very feel-good payoff.  But we also have to realize that not every villain in Friendship Is Magic is going to have a turnaround since villains can sometimes prove to be more interesting and complex than the heroes can while still holding on to what made them great in the first place.  Like anything in life, the reformation of a villain takes time as there will always be that darker side that exists and you just have to learn to deal with it.  We’re not fully good or evil or truly reformed…we are us, we make our own paths and whether you’re a former time-traveling cult leader or bacon-haired future alicorn princess, every story is different…make sure that it’s a good one.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders: Making Their Marks

As Mayor Mare once said, ‘everypony is the star of their own story and it’s not just the main characters in our stories that make like so rich-it’s everypony: those who play big parts and those who play small’…and when Bronies ask each other who their favorite side characters are in My Little Pony, you will usually hear names like Doctor Whooves and Derpy or Octavia and Vinyl.  But there is one group of side characters that everypony always seems to gloss over…The Cutie Mark Crusaders, but how is it that three fillies who we have known since the very beginning have gotten more development and characterization than any other side character on the show-even with an episode focused on the background characters?  Well, it’s time to make our marks and find out!

Ever since the Cutie Mark Crusaders first formed their secret society in Season 1’s ‘Call Of The Cutie’ to find out who they are, their adventures that followed over the next few season really divided the fandom’s views on the CMC and turned them into a mixed bag-some really loved the CMC because they were (for a lack of a better word) cute with episodes like ‘Ponyville Confidential’ and ‘Flight To The Finish’ while others found them annoying with episodes like ‘Stare Master’ and ‘The Show Stoppers’…which premiered in the exact same season, might I add since we learned what the CMC’s talents were before they even realized it and that’s not great for dramatic tension if you ask me…but unlike the Mane 6, the Cutie Mark Crusaders tend to create their own problems without external factors which is actually usually what happens with little kids who are the same age as the CMC and they then find a solution which results in them growing because of it.

To many fans, probably the best example of how the Cutie Mark Crusaders grow from finding a solution to their problems is easily the CMC Dream Trilogy consisting of the episodes ‘Sleepless In Ponyville, ‘For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils’ and ‘Bloom & Gloom’…they may be similar in concept, but the impact that these episodes left was greater than anypony could’ve ever imagined.  In ‘Sleepless In Ponyville’ where Scootaloo has trouble admitting her fears of Rainbow Dash’s ghost stories, she learns via Princess Luna that fears are things that we have to face and that we can’t run away from them because the fear will just keep on growing.  Meanwhile in ‘For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils’ which took place one season later, Sweetie Belle learns to accept and understand different viewpoints from older siblings who tend to shine brighter than we do…while in ‘Bloom & Gloom’, Apple Bloom learns to accept herself and that your special talent may or may not be the thing you want to spend the rest of your life doing if it ends up ruining the bond between your friends.  A majority of the fandom has called these three episodes some of the best CMC episodes ever and for good reason…plus, all of this was building up to the episode that we all were waiting for.

And that episode is none other than ‘Crusaders Of The Lost Mark’ where the Cutie Mark Crusaders finally discovered their true talents and got their cutie marks at long last…but while a majority of the fandom was celebrating one of the biggest events in the show’s history, there were some people who had two main problems with it…as they so often tend to do.  One of those problems being that earning their cutie marks at the same time defeated their quest for individuality as established in ‘The Show Stoppers’ and while I can agree with that somewhat since the Cutie Mark Crusaders did learn the most when they were separated, I want you all to think back to ‘Bloom & Gloom’ where the CMC feared that it wouldn’t be right for their group to exist if one member got their mark and not the others-getting their marks at the same time meant that no pony was excluded and their friendship bond would help them accomplish so much more as explained in the song ‘Hearts Strong As Horses’…they are a trio and they work as a team.  While I can agree with the first point of contention, I however disagree with the other problem some people had which was that the Cutie Mark Crusaders would have nothing to do after they got their marks since the CMC are still young and they have all the time in the world to discover what their marks really mean-one chapter of their lives may be over, but that doesn’t mean the journey has to end right there…and I think that’s why so many Bronies got teary-eyed over this episode as we were all right there with Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo on their journey and will continue to follow them on their quest as My Little Pony trots on for a bright future.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders may not be everyone’s favorite characters, but one thing’s for sure…no matter what happens or what obstacles they face, they will make their marks.

Princess Luna: Royal Redemption

So, many of you will probably remember back when I reviewed the controversial My Little Pony-Season 5 episode 'Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?' last year...but for the longest time, I have been torn between loving the episode like I did originally or just finding it okay or bad like in Lily Peet's 'In 5 Minutes' video or Silver Quill's 'After The Fact' collab with VoiceOfReason. It wasn't until GoldenFox's recent and rather emotional review of the episode with Keyframe that I realized why I loved this episode as well as Princess Luna as a character so much...but what is it about Luna that makes her such a great character to many of us Bronies?  Well, let’s dig into this moon pie and find out…

To many Bronies including myself, Princess Luna has been one of the most intriguing characters in the entire franchise of My Little Pony to truly capture our hearts despite her not getting as much screentime as her royal peers have gotten due to Hasbro and DHX Media labeling her ‘too scary for kids’ after her appearance in the pilot regardless of Lauren Faust having plans for episodes starring Luna and having to work with what they had until they finally had a chance to explore her character more in Season 5’s ‘Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep’.  But when you really get down to it, the reason why so many of us are drawn to Princess Luna is that she is an intermediate on the characterization scale right between becoming a background pony and a fully established character…not to mention that the fact that she had a very tortured past and feels extremely guilty about it was enough to eat us up with how much we had wanted answers to how she would deal with her past actions in the current age of Equestria and how she wants to better herself in the eyes of everypony with things like her social awkwardness back in Season 2’s ‘Luna Eclipsed’ and her dream-walking capabilities in the CMC Dream Trilogy…and being someone who continues to battle depression and social awkwardness every day, Princess Luna is easily one of my favorite and most relatable characters on the show and what I'm about to say on why I think this way may actually surprise you.

For those of you who know me well ever since childhood, I have been judged and pushed around as well as harassed and bullied by other people who thought that I would never be able to accomplish anything in my life because of my disabilities whether it was being able to hold a pencil or to read; and thus I feel like I have to repeat those very words that people used to harm me/take the beatings that I did in the past in order to push myself to do better that I was originally....but at the same time just like what happened in this very episode with Princess Luna, I feel like I have created my own Tantabus that has completely taken over and turned me into my Nightmare Moon that I call False Cobalt and changed me forever from the happy-go-lucky person I used to be into being extremely anxious and depressed who fears what others will think of him as well as what my future will be like because of past actions to the point where I question the meaning of myself/what my purpose in life really is.

So when ‘Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep’ came around, to see an episode where I'm basically in the role of Princess Luna with learning to forgive yourself from your past actions that actually managed to bring me to tears by the end of it really made me realize why I love 'Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?' so much as an episode that left quite an impact on me and why I love My Little Pony as a show as well as Princess Luna so much as a character that I can look up to; hence why I wrote the letter that I did back at the 'Dear Princess Letter Reading' panel from this year's BronyCon and why I made sure that I got a photo with my friend Sarahndipity Cosplay as Princess Luna afterwards-I knew it was just someone cosplaying as her, but much like Twilight Sparkle...Princess Luna really has left that emotional of an impact on me as a character to the point where I felt like she was really there. Without her to look up to as a symbol of redemption, without this franchise or its fandom...I wouldn't be as socially active as I am now.

As Keyframe said in GoldenFox's review of the episode...we all have our own Tantabus in the form of anxiety/depression-it can never be destroyed and we have to carry it around with us every day, but we need to be able to learn from our past actions and take the first step in forgiving ourselves and realizing that we're not who we were before to save ourselves from letting the Tantabus overtake us and make us become our own Nightmare Moons all over again despite there still being those moments where we regret what we did.  The fact that we regret our past actions and try to get better shows that we're not who we used to be...and when you have an awesome group of friends like the ones that I have now because of such a wonderful franchise and fandom, I know that I'll never truly be alone as I have all the help that I need to help get through each day knowing that I can make a difference in this world…and while Princess Luna may seem overrated to some, there’s no doubt to many fans including myself that she will always be Best Princess.

Thank you, Princess Luna...