Monday, 30 November 2015

Episode review: S5E25&26: "The Cutie Re-Mark"

Alt!Rainbow Dash with Pinkamena and Maud
Insert the usual "you know, for kids" joke here
And so, the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ride comes to an end for another season. With rumours that the hiatus before S6 may be the longest yet, it was particularly important that S5 signed off with something memorable. Interestingly, this season's finale was not written by Meghan McCarthy; instead, Josh Haber took the reins for only the second time this season, the first being "Bloom & Gloom". The hype for this one was off the scale, so could the episode live up to those expectations?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #36

IDW MLP:FiM comic issue 36, standard cover
Andy Price did the standard cover this time
Guess what? IDW's schedule is still a mess. How do comics companies get away with this? In some sectors of periodical publishing, you'd go bust if you were this poor at maintaining a reliable schedule. Right now, ComicList reckons that Art is Magic is already out (but Amazon have told pre-orderers that it'll be mid-December) and Art Gallery II has no firm release date at all. Sorry, IDW, but this is just not good enough.

End of rant. Here we are with the third part of the Siege of the Crystal Empire arc. I enjoyed the previous issue, which (perhaps generously) scraped a four-star rating, but this one knocks it into a cocked hat. This is definitely the best – and darkest – instalment so far, and a good deal of that is down to Chrysalis. I do hope she's never reformed; she's a truly evil villain, and that's great. There are some striking and disturbing panels in this issue, not least a "mind's eye" flashback and a reveal of one character's true form. I have to say I'm not sure how Whitley can tie everything together in #37 without rushing things, but I'll reserve judgement there. For now, I'll take this: it's a really satisfying read. This one gets an easy four. ★★★★

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 83: Mr Flibble's Very Cross

BronyScot 2015 seems to have gone very well, which is good to hear. It's a shame it's such a pain to get to Edinburgh from here, or I'd have been tempted to have gone. Well done to the BS crew (who, I suspect, don't actually use that name!). Anyway, another eight fics this week, which isn't bad going by my standards. Don't expect me necessarily to keep up this rate of reading, especially since I've been reading some slightly longer stories of late. Still, here are today's candidates:

Twilight's List by kits
Let Me Tell You About the Hole in My Face by Slavoj Zizek
Madmax x Pacce by roygbiv
A Real Baked Bad by Propellerface

Cancelled by Lucky Roll
The Truth Hurts by Metool Bard
Bloody 'Ell by TaviTwoHooves
Rainbow Rocks by Twinkletail

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Most of A Pony Kind of Christmas is now on Hasbro Studio Shorts

( Text link )

This is a little unexpected – I would have found it much less so had Hasbro done this after Christmas, but who knows what goes on in the minds of big corporations? Anyway, the Hasbro Studio Shorts YouTube channel has uploaded most of the songs from the recent A Pony Kind of Christmas album. All official and above board, yay! These are the tracks now available free:

"Days Gone By", "Jingle Bells", "Deck the Halls", "Jolly Ol' Saint Nick", "Last Year I Got Coal for Christmas", "Silent Night", "The Heart Carol" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

That means the songs you'll still need to buy the album to hear are the opening track (also called "A Pony Kind of Christmas") and Pinkie Pie's version of "Twelve Days of Christmas".

I'm very pleased to see the full version of "The Heart Carol". I've liked the short version in the S2 episode for years, and it's great that we now have the full thing. "Days Gone By", an AJ adaptation of "Auld Lang Syne", is also very nice. However, the track I'm embedding at the top of this post is "Silent Night", simply because getting a full Fluttershy solo song is a) fairly rare and b) brilliant.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Episode review: S5E24: "The Mane Attraction"

Pinkie Pie explains straws to Svengallop
There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright
With this final episode before the season five finale, it's time to say goodbye to one of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's original writing team. After five seasons, Amy Keating Rogers is leaving for pastures new at Disney. and this is her very last episode. From the preview, it looked like being an Applejack ep, which seemed fitting as the first episode she wrote solo was "Applebuck Season". Late-season episodes are often less than stellar, but would this one buck that trend? After the break for more!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #35

Sara Richard's cover art is always striking
IDW are all over the place with their release dates at the moment: the Art Gallery II has been delayed until early December, while the Art is Magic book now has no definite release date at all, perhaps to avoid a clash with The Art of Equestria. Still, as I'm also all over the place with my comic review dates, I suppose I can cut them a bit of slack this one time! It wasn't all my fault, though, as a comic ordered from an eBay seller failed to arrive. Happily, a replacement ordered from Albion Toys instead came quickly. So...

This is the second comic in the four-issue Siege of the Crystal Empire arc that began moderately promisingly last month. This month's issue is also pretty good, I'm pleased to say. The first few pages deal with Sombra's origins, but thankfully it's not just a straight reprinting of his Fiendship story. Sombra and Chrysalis make a genuinely worrisome team-up, though I really can't believe the likes of Iron Will or Lightning Dust would go along with truly evil plans. Radiant Hope plays a significant role and is... naive, to say the least. Still, it's a solid issue with good artwork, and a fine full-page scene featuring Twilight just nudges this one into four-star territory. ★★★★

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 82: Everything has a meaning, if only we could read it

I watched "Bats!" last night. Then I went back and listened to the song again. Yes, for fun. I'd watch this episode over the one that precedes it ("Power Ponies") any day of the week. I mention this because it's only fair to warn my readers that I may have a very strange sense of what does and what does not constitute a good story. :P Eight fics under consideration today, so let's get a move on:

Griffon it Another Try by Winston
The Next Edward VIII by Gabriel LaVedier
The Only One in Color by RazgrizS57
The New Crop by xjuggernaughtx

Orange Crystals by dramatic_spoon
Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Hyperexponential
The Language of Stars by ObabScribbler
The Cancellation of Prince Blueblood by Georg

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The My Little Pony Movie is coming! (In two years' time...)

The big news today is the official confirmation from Hasbro that the less than imaginatively named The My Little Pony Movie will be released on 3 November 2017. Just under two years to go, then. My personal view, and I'm not alone in this, is that it will mark the end of Friendship is Magic as we know it today. There may well be a G4.5 rather than Hasbro making a clean break to a full G5, but I suspect the film will be an effective finale to the series as a whole.

If the rumours that the S5-S6 hiatus will be a year long prove to be true, then I believe S6 will be the final season of FiM proper. If it were a full, 26-episode season starting this time next year, then it would finish in the spring of 2017. That would leave just the right amount of time for hype to build for the movie. Of course, we know there will be a fourth Equestria Girls film at some point, and there's been some suggestion that we might get some official shorts during the hiatus.

But still. Let's hope that The My Little Pony Movie's content is more imaginative than its title, and that if it does prove to be the end of FiM, it provides it with a fitting send-off.

Update 15 Feb 2017: Of course, we now know that the release date will be different, that the S5-S6 hiatus was shorter than a year, and that S6 was not the final season. I've not changed any of the above, though I have altered the tag to fit with the confirmed title of My Little Pony: The Movie.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Episode review: S5E23: "The Hooffields and the McColts"

Fluttershy says goodbye to her furry friends
Look, this is my blog. I can put a picture of Fluttershy here because I want to.
(Posting slightly early because Blogger doesn't want to let me schedule this.)

Only two more regular episodes remain in S5 before the finale, so inevitably the thoughts of the My Little Pony fandom are starting to turn in that direction now. Still, I was pleased when it was announced that this one had been written by Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songko, the team behind the excellent "Rarity Investigates!" and the also enjoyable "Castle Sweet Castle". Two episodes: two four-star ratings. Could they make it a hat-trick? Let's see!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #22: Pinkie Pie and Celestia

Amy Mebberson did the main cover once again
Well now, there's an interesting team-up for the My Little Pony side series. This comic was written by the Rice-Fosgitt-Breckel team who last got together for the excellent Fluttershy/Rainbow Dash FF, so I was hopeful of something special again. I didn't quite get that, as this is more of a simple "ponies doing cute and fun things" issue, but it's pleasant enough reading and Fosgitt's illustrative style continues to be attractive. Pinkie's baking scenes are a lot of fun, and as ever she manages to conjure up some bizarre creations. One or two insights into Celestia's feelings about Luna, though I do wonder whether they might have got a little past the reconciliation stage by now. Still, worth a look. ★★★

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 81: Based on a Novel by a Man Named Lear

There are various new tags available on Fimfiction. Some authors are going back and changing their stories' tags as a result. I may or may not, but probably not. And if you think I'm going back through 400 reviews and changing them all to match, you're mad. :P Also, go and buy The Art of Equestria, assuming you haven't done so already. Full review coming at some point, but it's warmly recommended.

Another productive week for me in the ponyfic-reading stakes! Eight more stories under review this time out, with a pretty wide selection of genres and focus characters. I'm pleased to say that several of them turned out to be very enjoyable reads, too. I even managed to find an interesting fic from an author who is almost entirely unknown, something which is fairly rare but always satisfying. Stories reviewed:

It's Always Sunny in Fillydelphia by Bobcat
Language by Taialin
After Care by Ebon Mane
Shut Up by UnlicensedBrony

Of choosing and stones. by chil304
Racist Barn by Ponydora Prancypants
Filth by TheCheshireCat
The Big Butterfly Brouhaha by adcoon

Monday, 9 November 2015

Episode review: S5E22: "What About Discord?"

Fluttershy is an orange
I can't help thinking of "Too Many Pinkie Pies" here...
I've been reading InquisitorM's long and interesting Fimfiction blog post on Fluttershy's psychological makeup, and I recommend you do the same. It reminds me that I've wanted to do my own post about how I see (and indeed write) Fluttershy for ages and ages now, but been too lazy to make it happen. I'll probably get it done eventually, but don't hold your breath.

All right, episode review time. This week's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was written by Neal Dusedau, which did leave me a little apprehensive, since he was responsible for the teleplay of the pretty uninspired "Princess Spike". Still, plenty of writers have written a clunker and then a great episode, so let's see whether "What About Discord?" can live up to its promising title – and a brief preview clip that promised a lot of fun.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Film review: Friendship Games

Let's Go, Wondercolts!
Gee, I wonder who the final six contestants might be...?
It seems a while ago now – because it is! – but a few weeks back, I went with some of the other Worcester meet regulars to the Vue cinema in the city centre to watch Friendship Games. We'd all thought for a while that we weren't going to get a big-screen release, seeing as this third Equestria Games instalment was a direct-to-TV movie, but happily we were wrong. Kudos to Vue for reducing their usual (high) prices for this film, too. Attendance wasn't bad, a mix of bronies and familes. Anyway, on to the review! This is a short one, since otherwise I'm never going to get it done.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Fimfiction rules

There has, finally, been a Fimfiction site post about the recent changes to its rules. This should have happened immediately the changes were announced, but better late than never, I suppose. One bit of the rules that caught my eye (and I don't seem to be alone in that) was this:
Sharing access to unpublished stories or chapters is only allowed for the purpose of help with editing or other stages of the writing process.
In response to horizon's bringing this up, Xaquseg (one of the site admins) had this to say:
It's fine if the people in question are helping with the writing process, such as acting as additional prereaders, or commenting on an incomplete idea.
That's... interesting. It means, for example, that authors can't offer sight of their unpublished stories as Patreon rewards – unless, as ocalhoun appreciated, said supporters "act as additional prereaders".

Nudge nudge, know what I mean, say no more. :P

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 80: Spotlight on Friendship is Optimal

Hmm, I think I'll start giving a little teaser each week about something I'll be reviewing the following week. See the end of this post for the first one! Anyway, it's been several months since I did a spotlight edition of PR, so let's do something about that now. Friendship is Optimal is just coming up to its third birthday, and I've known about it for most of that time, yet tended to shy away because of its unappealing (to me) tag combination and summary. Persuaded at last to give it a shot, it turned out to be worth the effort.

Friendship is Optimal by Iceman
Celestia [sort of] and OCs
Alternate Universe/Human; 39k words; Nov 2012; Teen
Hasbro just released the official My Little Pony MMO, with an A.I. Princess Celestia to run it.
That short description is unpromising, suggesting a story full of poor quality wish fulfilment. In fact, once you get past the "look how much I know about games" first chapter, it's mostly fascinating. More hard(ish) SF than actual ponyfic in some ways, Friendship is Optimal retains just enough plausibility and connection with our own world to be unnerving. "Celestia" herself is by far the most interesting character, with the humans generally a little less compelling, but it remains very readable throughout. ★★★★

More detailed discussion on this story can be found beyond the break, though be aware that this will contain significant spoilers.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #21: Spike and Zecora

Amy Mebberson's main cover is sneeze-inducing in itself!
I know, I know, this is horribly late! But happily, it's a comic that I quite enjoyed. Although you couldn't really claim that Ted Anderson and Agnes Garbowska had produced a classic here, it's still an enjoyable read. The plot, in which most of Ponyville goes down with an unpleasant illness, is fairly thin and mostly an excuse for throwing these two together, but it bounces along pleasantly. There are some fun touches – look carefully at Spike's genetics chart! Noteworthy is that Garbowska's style, which I'm not always a great fan of, seems to suit Spike in particular rather well. Reading this comic makes a nice way of spending a few minutes. ★★★

Monday, 2 November 2015

Episode review: S5E21: "Scare Master"

Pinkie and Fluttershy with goodie bag
"Pinkie, when you said it was 'full of Fluttershy goodness'..."
With a title like that, there's only one pony that Natasha Levinger's episode could possibly focus on. Fluttershy eps have a bit of a mixed reputation, with some of them (eg "Hurricane Fluttershy") being brilliant but some (eg "Putting Your Hoof Down") being rather less so. On top of that, this is the episode that was released in error six weeks ago, so many people will have seen it long since. Thankfully, nothing seriously spoilery for intervening episodes happened – though it could have been very different! Let's see how this one went...