Monday, 14 September 2015

Episode review: S5E14: "Canterlot Boutique"

Rarity gets angry with Sassy Saddles
Applejack (and the Mane Six out of shot) know it's time to run
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is back on our screens at last! It's only been a few months, but it's sometimes felt like a lot longer. We kick off S5 part two with a Rarity episode, and those are rarely terrible. The fact that the writer for this ep was Amy Keating Rogers also helped to make me more optimistic towards it, as I've generally liked her episodes. After the break, there'll be the usual spoiler-filled review of how good I thought it actually was.

And the answer to that is: quite good. Not very good, but quite good, yes. After the brilliance of the preceding two episodes, plus the inevitable build-up for this one being a semi-premiere, that is damning with faint praise. I don't mind that this episode didn't have much action; it was a real slice-of-life ep and that's fine. (Let's have another map episode soon, though, eh?) I just felt that it was a rather ordinary story. "Ordinary" MLP eps are still good, though, and I still enjoyed watching this one.

We got a song! Praise Celestia (look, I don't care if she's not divine, I can still praise her), at long, long last we got a song. And "The Rules of Rarity" was... well, it was quite good. Rarity singing is always nice to hear, but I do rather fret that Daniel Ingram is getting too clever and experimental with these: it was a very complex piece by Pony standards, and it really isn't something I can see being presented at a singalong any time soon. Not to mention the fact that its intro is reminiscent of that of Jona Lewie's "Stop the Cavalry"!

Pinkie Pie at the window of the Carousel Boutique
I'm... not sure how I'd take seeing that at my window
Back to the story. We had some broad comedy with Pinkie Pie at the start, though that faded a bit thereafter. Pacing in this episode wasn't perfect, spending too much time on the setup and then squashing too much in later on. I found my attention wandering at times, though, so perhaps the fast pace was needed. Or perhaps this just wasn't a script I cared that much about. Still, the animators did superbly with facial expressions, sometimes for tiny – but significant – periods. (Watch Twi's face just after the camera cuts to her after Sassy's "Everypony loves royalty!")

Sassy "another failed boutique" Sandals, the antagonist of the piece, wasn't somepony I found particularly interesting, although I certainly recognised the personality type! She could have been a real "love to hate" character with a little more finesse, but I suppose her redemption at the end would have stopped that anyway. Apart from Twilight, who endured her celebrity status with appropriate stoicism, the Mane Six (and Spike) didn't really do anything. Were they all really needed?

Rarity, as usual in her episodes, was the most interesting pony to watch. She went through something similar to what Rainbow Dash had way back in "Wonderbolts Academy", finally realising a long-held dream and only then discovering that aspects of it weren't what she thought they would be, not to mention having to deal with a friend-turned-rival. Of the support ponies, Fashion Plate stood out, as did "Moonlight Raven". That end joke, though... it just wasn't funny, and a writer of AKR's class could have done a lot better. (Edit: to be fair to her, as pointed out in the comments, it may well have been the animators.) (Edit 2: it wasn't AKR's doing. Apologies to her.)

The Canterlot Boutique finally works out
And what are you up to, Sea Swirl? We're watching you, you know...
Overall, then, a decent but not exceptional episode to take us into the back half of Season 5. It had a solid, if not particularly innovative, storyline – and it was good that Rarity didn't abandon her new business at the end – but it had a few rough edges that stopped it from going beyond enjoyable and into the realms of the great. It seems that there's likely to be more Rarity in store for us next week, so it'll be interesting to see how her character in that differs from what we saw this weekend.

Best quote: Rarity: "...Tripping the Light!" Fashion Plate: "Fantastic!"

Yays
  • Rarity gets her "success wasn't what I imagined" episode
  • The ending (apart from the very end) was well handled
  • Twilight was rather adorable
  • Fashion Plate and Moonlight Raven
  • A good-looking episode, and some clever work with facial expressions
  • A song, egad! Another song at last!
  • Twilight being impressed by somepony's (Sassy's) attention to detail
Neighs
  • The pacing felt off, with the episode taking too long to get going
  • That last joke. What were you thinking, AKR animators?
  • Rarity was in the wrong changing that dress, but there was no comeback
  • Sassy Sandals just didn't have that extra spark the great side ponies do
★★★

8 comments:

  1. By ending joke, do you mean the appearance of the, um... larger pony, or the fact that Sassy and Rarity tell her that they don't have the dress? The latter is what I consider the joke, though it is weak.

    The former, though, is what people seem to be focusing in on, and I'm not sure that's AKR's fault. I don't think that it ISN'T her fault, but I have a hard time believing that she wrote "... then a fat pony shows up and we make fun of her." in the final line of the story synopsis. That seems more like an animation team thing, but Ms. Rogers seems to be taking the wrap for it.

    As ending jokes go, the "No!" wasn't terribly inspired, but it feels stock. It's neither good nor bad. I recognize it as a comedic ending line, but it stops well short of being anything other than a mental check box for me.

    That said, I did enjoy this episode. I think anyone who is creative, yet works in a place that aggressively squashes creativity will relate to this. My job does it all the time. They take what ought to be a good idea and then ruin it by over-emphasizing success until they wring all the satisfaction out of it. People survive rather than feeling that they've achieved.

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    1. Yes, fair point about the final joke; I've made a slight edit to the review to reflect that. I'm still surprised, though, and I wonder whether Hasbro might have had a quiet word with the team and asked them not to do that again. You'd think they'd be extra-sensitive about anything people might take offence to after you-know-what back in S2.

      I think this episode had the potential to be a four-star one, but "Suited for Success" and "Rarity Takes Manehattan" did quite a few of the ideas better, at least in my view. If I'd found Sassy more interesting, it might have got one.

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    2. What was it in S2 people took offense to?

      One other thing, how would a song be too complex in MLP? Just wondering, I saw you give the same thoughts for Rainbow Dash's "I'll Fly", but I thought it was fine (though know I agree with that "I know it's wrong..." line).

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    3. The S2 thing I was referring to was Derpygate.

      As for songs, my personal preference is for them to be easily singable. "Apples to the Core" is a perfect example -- I could sing that from start to finish, right now, from memory. If you want a Rarity example, then "Art of the Dress". No way will I ever be able to do it with "The Rules of Rarity" -- bits of it are very catchy, but it chops and changes too much for my liking.

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    4. AKR has said on twitter that fat pony was not her idea. EQD ran a thing about it shortly after the episode. :B

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    5. Ah, I missed that. Thanks; I'll do a little more editing of this, then.

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  2. From what I found out, the next episode is about Rarity too.

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