Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 122: Your Adventure Ends Here

Well, mine doesn't – but HoofBitingActionOverload's Fimfiction adventure may be doing so in the next few days. Pretty much out of nowhere, the author of (among many others) Spring is Dumb (PR 53), has announced his intention to unsubmit all his stories, on the grounds that he wants to use elements of them in original fiction and can't do so if they're easily available online. Most people, including me, would prefer he didn't feel the need to do this, but here's a heads-up: if you like any of his fics, download them right now.

Given that HBAO has made it clear that he won't be deleting the stories, and that he's fine with people continuing to read stories they have links to, I will not be removing the links from my own reviews. (I'm a little surprised to discover that Spring is Dumb and Our Weary Daughter, Rest [PR 29] are the only fics of his I've reviewed here.) However, since I only review published stories, I regret to say that PR will not be covering any more HBAO fics. It's not for me to pass judgement on others' decisions, but I do feel very sad.

Now, on to today's actual reviews. I looked at five stories for this week's edition and, while the wait for a five-star masterpiece goes on, there's some good variety in today's Mixed Bag O' Stuff. The titles in question are:

The Mill by RazedRainbow
Spike's suicide by RoseTheChangeling
Blink by zaponator
The Royal Olympics by Derpyx0
Balance by Lunaric Enigma

★: 1 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Most and Least Rewatchable: Season Two

The atomic rainboom from "Lesson Zero"
The skeleton of a pony. A pony's skeleton
Same format as the Season One post (to which I've finally remembered to add a header image), although I wonder whether some of my choices this time round might prove a little more contentious. Remember, I'm not necessarily choosing the best episodes of S2, rather the ones I rewatch the most often. That means in their entirety: a generally uninspiring episode with one scene I keep going back to won't get in here. And before I forget: yes, I do intend to do this for S6, but that will not happen for a while. Off we go.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Episode review: S6E17: "Dungeons and Discords"

Discord, Spike and Big Mac at the jazz club
"Somepony stop me? Why in Equestria would I want them to do that?"
This week on My Little Pony we saw the return of Nick Confalone, last seen on the show writing the generally very well received episode "The Saddle Row Review". (Sweep.) The synopsis for this one suggested that it was going to be another light-hearted episode, but one that focused on the male characters for a change. Quite a few people (although not particularly me) had been hoping for that for a while, so after the break I'll consider what sort of a story emerged.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Pony Music Library 23: "Friendship is Magic (Orchestral Arrangement)"

Titanium Dragon reviewed It Doesn't Matter Now and gave it a Not Recommended, which maintains my perfect 100% score as far as those go. Someone asked me whether I thought he was "wrong" – and no, I don't. Who am I to judge someone else's opinion on my writing? He didn't get any factual details wrong, so I have no reason to feel aggrieved. Disappointed, absolutely, since I think it's a good story, as well as being the one fic of mine I thought might have a chance with him. Since he also NR'd We Who with Songs Beguile, I really doubt that anything I've written is going to be to his taste. But "wrong"? No, not at all.

Anyway, onward. We haven't had a Pony Music Library entry for a little while, so let's do something about that!

What? "Friendship is Magic (Orchestral Arrangement)"

Who? Evening Star

Which? Remix / original instrumental

When? May 2013

Why? Another musician, sadly, who has long left the pony world behind him, Evening Star produced some truly wonderful pieces during his time in the fandom. This, though, is one I could listen to endlessly: a soaring orchestral arrangement of his own, with several instantly recognisable phrases from canon songs sprinkled on top in such a way as to blend in effortlessly. I'm not the first to have said it has an "epic film score" feel to it, and though of course it won't and can't happen it would be a wonderful thing to have played over the closing credits of next year's MLP movie.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Comic review: Friends Forever #31: Rainbow Dash and Little Strongheart

MLP Friends Forever #31, Sub cover by Sara Richard
I had to have Sara Richard's cover, really!
Something a little different for Friends Forever this time: Tony Fleecs not only draws the comic (well, most of it; I'll come back to that in a minute) but writes it as well. He does a pretty good job, too; although this issue suffers from the perennial problem of a rushed ending, the story is pleasant despite being simple; it's good to see the buffalo again and there's an amusing recurring joke. Fleecs's art is generally fine, if just occasionally a little wonky – but the highlight of this issue is without doubt the five pages of the story illustrated by Sara Richard. This is easily the most she's ever contributed to a single issue. It's absolutely spectacular, too, to the extent that on its own it upgrades this comic from a three-star to a four-star rating. If you admire Richard's art, and most of us do, then this is an absolute must-buy. ★★★★

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Text Review Roundup: "The Times They Are a Changeling"

Thorax hissing with hunger
It's awfully clever how he manages to avoid the channel logo like that!
Before I forget: a while back, I said I was disappointed in the disappearance of the Unleash the Fanboy reviews – it's such a shame that none of the major geeky sites take much interest in Pony any more, as I'd have loved to have seen what they made of "Stranger than Fan Fiction". However, all is not lost! Daniel Alvarez, who wrote the UtF pieces, is still around and still writing text-based MLP reviews: he's the guy behind Articles of Destroyer!

Right; onward. With a few exceptions, the text-based reviewers really liked this one, and that fits with the very positive reception the episode had over on UK of Equestria. It's actually quite interesting to compare this with the generally pretty negative commenters on Chris's blog post about the episode, but that's not what I'm here for right now, so let's move on:

ArthurCrane – extremely positive ("pretty damn terrific")

Articles of Destroyer – quite positive (rated 8/10; "very solid")

BatBrony Reviews – very positive ("exactly what MLP is supposed to be all about")

Derpy News – wildly positive (graded A+; "wonderful")

Michaelsety – slightly negative (graded C; "the story has some emptiness")

Louder Yay – very positive (four stars; "new writers who properly get this show")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive ("this episode just knocked it out of the park")

MLP Fanatic – extremely positive ("definitely going to join my all time favorite episodes")

The Railfan Brony Blog – negative (great concept but poor execution)

The Super Mario Brony Blog – very negative (one star; "yet another rushed redemption")

Super Recaps – mostly positive ("what it gets right is way more than what it gets wrong")

TheDragonWarlock – very positive (graded A-; "a very strong episode for Spike")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – extremely positive (rated 95%; "packed with depth and profundity")

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 121: What if Your Daemon is a Changeling?

With the Olympics over and the usual silly statistics (GBR won golds in more sports than any other nation, fact fans) going with them, I can return to other things. My piece about why ponyisms shouldn't be confined to fanfics will have to wait a while, as I seem to have all kinds of other stuff I want to post. Like this! Six stories, for the first time in a while, including one I really should have read years ago. Not a bad week overall, either.

Sandbox by Summer Dancer
Lyra Heartstrings and the Hand of Man by Between Lines
The Late Twilight Sparkle by InsufferableUnicorn
Five Hundred Little Murders by Estee
Raven by SaintChoc
Milkshakes by punzil504

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Most and Least Rewatchable: Season One

Fluttershy singing "So Many Wonders"
Filly Fluttershy being cute. The horror!
I was wandering through the EQD archives earlier and came across this post from June, in which Seth chose the ten episodes he found the most rewatchable. I like the idea, but am going to tweak it slightly – and also add some negativity, just for the hay of it. I haven't kept statistics relating to how many times I've seen any particular episode, so these are simply how I feel about the eps I mention. Let's start with the winners:

Monday, 22 August 2016

Episode review: S6E16: "The Times They Are a Changeling"

The changeling nursery
Well, that's not nightmare-inducing at all...
This is going to be a relatively short review, as I'm absolutely exhausted right now. Still, this time we had a new writing team in Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt. (As an aside, have you noticed how few female writers the show has now?) The title also gave away an admittedly rather ill-kept secret: that we were going to see a changeling play a major part in an episode for the first time since "A Canterlot Wedding". (I don't think that "Slice of Life" cameo really counts!) Past the break for a bit more.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Pony Music Library 22: "Winter Wrap Up"

I'm still recovering from that gripping hockey final; I really wasn't expecting us to beat the Dutch, but I'm so glad I watched the last quarter live. Anyway, it's PML time again – and I suspect quite a few of you have been wondering when this particular song would turn up!

What? "Winter Wrap Up"

Who? Daniel Ingram, Steffan Andrews (orchestration) and Cindy Morrow (lyrics)

Which? Show song

When? December 2010

Why? "Three months of winter coolness..." – go on, I dare you not to smile. This was where it all began as far as big show songs are concerned. Before this, early FiM fans had Pinkie's little ditties and Flutterguy's bout of weirdness to enjoy, but "Winter Wrap Up" took things to another level. It was actually leaked a few weeks before the episode went out (nothing new under the sun!) but even in 2016 I love watching people's first reactions to this. This is the point where many watchers become actual fans/bronies for the first time. It's also where we first heard just how good Rebecca Shoichet's singing voice was for Twilight. Oddly, there are two "official music videos" for this: one is on the Hasbro Studios Shorts channel, which is a little more of a PMV. The one embedded here, though, is the original, courtesy of the My Little Pony Official channel. As the traditional closing song for BUCK, it also provides me with some particularly special memories of my own.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Text Review Roundup: "28 Pranks Later"

Rainbow Dash clings to Cheerilee's blackboard
Rainbow has clearly been taking dimension-hopping lessons from Pinkie
Time for another summary of what non-video reviewers thought of the latest episode. As ever, I don't claim this to be a comprehensive survey of such people, but hopefully there are at least enough to be of interest. As always, click on the reviewer's name to read their review for yourself. There's a newcomer to TRR this week in the shape of Michaelsety. Do let me know if there are any other text-based reviewers you'd like me to feature here!

There was quite a mixed reception to this episode, with Rainbow's characterisation coming in for particular criticism. Here we go:

ArthurCrane – generally positive ("I (mostly) actually like this")

Articles of Destroyer – mixed (rated 6/10)

BatBrony Reviews – mildly positive ("just an OK episode")

Derpy News – mildly positive (graded B)

Michaelsety – very positive (graded A)

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; "it isn't really a S6 episode")

Super Recaps – negative ("had the potential to be something much more")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – extremely negative (rated 0/5; "how not to write an episode")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – mixed ("by no means terrible, although it'd possibly be less frustrating if it were")

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 120: Spotlight on Whom the Princesses Would Destroy

These Olympics have been fantastic so far, and not only because my own country is doing better than expected. (Sheesh, that men's keirin final, though. Don't do that to me, Jason Kenny!) But back to ponyfic now. I wouldn't normally post two Spotlight PRs in the space of three weeks, but I've ended up having more to say about this story than I was expecting for a piece of under 20,000 words. Here we go:

Whom the Princesses Would Destroy by GhostOfHeraclitus
OCs and Celestia
Comedy/Slice of Life; 20k words; Oct 2012; Teen
Behind the scenes of a perfectly normal visit to Canterlot lies chaos. Also, custard.
Now here's something different, and it was probably even more different when it appeared four years ago. This is a story about the Equestrian Civil Service – and if you're thinking Yes, Minister then you're not far off. (If you're not, go and educate yourself!) Its protagonist, Dotted Line, is a fun character, though most of the others are well thought out too. Don't expect a slavish Yes, Minister clone, though; it's more imaginative than that. Later on, in fact, it's more reminiscent of early-mid series Discworld stories. The fic's main flaw is a persistent tense problem: the present is repeatedly used where the past (or occasionally the conditional) is called for. Apparently this was a deliberate decision; since English is (I think) GoH's third language, it's understandable, but it's still annoying. Recommended, though, since it's good fun and doesn't overstay its welcome. ★★★★

After the break, a few more detailed – and spoilery – thoughts.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A bit of role reversal

Normally I review other people's stories, but this is about other people reviewing my stories. I hope you'll indulge me in a post that has no significance at all beyond me being pleased about it. I've had two very nice reviews of my ponyfic in the last couple of weeks:

First, Chris reviewed the very silly Shining Armor's Amour's Armour, a fic that is much more a piece of silliness than an actual good story but which has unaccountably become one of my most popular pieces. As he quite rightly says, it's not a fic there's any point in reading if you don't like contrived puns – but who doesn't? It's also well timed, since the story was inspired by a passing comment from Cerulean Voice, a long-standing author who has made the entirely understandable decision to retire from ponyfic and give priority to that strange thing we call Real Life.

PaulAsaran reviewed another of my stories, It Doesn't Matter Now. This is a fic that I do think is a good story – it's also by some way my most read fic – and I'm very pleased by the comments Paul gave about it. I think he makes a fair point about its brevity, but then that's what I do. I'm sure someone could have made it into a wonderful longer fic, but I was never that someone. So as with Chris's review, albeit from a rather different perspective, I'm very happy with that.

(That's enough self-promotion – Ed.)

Monday, 15 August 2016

Episode review: S6E15: "28 Pranks Later"

The ponies pretend to be zombified
Was there a Cookie Monster joke in this ep? If not, why not?
In the last two weeks, we've had an episode I loved and an episode I... didn't love. This time around we had a brand new writer to My Little Pony in the shape of F. M. De Marco. They had previously worked on Littlest Pet Shop, however. With zombies having been canon since Pinkie mentioned them way back in "Bridle Gossip", I was rather hoping that we'd get a fun yet just slightly scary episode. What we actually got was...

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Pony Music Library 21: "Vicious Lies"

You know what? It's been a while since I posted a PML entry – so let's do something about that right now.

What? "Vicious Lies"

Who? d.notive

Which? Original song

When? February 2012

Why? Oh my goodness, this takes me back. When I joined the fandom, in spring 2012, this was one of the first tracks I found that really turned me on to how great brony music could be. Back then, the whole "New Lunar Republic" / "Tyrant Celestia" thing was still fairly popular, and though I've never been very interested in that in itself, this song demanded my attention. If you have any interest at all in Depeche Mode, you'll recognise the style, which is ideal for a tale like this. I don't know when I last heard someone mention this song, and that's a crying shame.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Text Review Roundup: "The Cart Before the Ponies"

The ponies in their carts, Wacky Races style
Ah, the briefest glimpse of what might – should – have been

All right, time for another Text Review Roundup. I imagine you all know the setup by now, but just in case: this is a summary of what non-video reviewers, a group that doesn't interest EQD but does interest me, thought of the most recent episode. Clicking on a reviewer's name will take you straight to the review in question. And this time, the reception was generally rather poor.

Articles of Destroyer – negative (rated 5/10; "Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all are written very terribly")

Batbrony Reviews – mildly positive ("utterly predictable [but] better than average")

Derpy News – mildly positive (graded B)

KrisSimsters – equivocal ("could have been better")

Louder Yay – rather negative (two stars; "I was rather underwhelmed")

The Railfan Brony – very negative (rated 2/10; "a big disappointment")

Super Recaps – negative ("largely tedious to sit through")

TheDragonWarlock – rather negative (graded C-)

Thrond Media Pony Corner – negative ("the show at its least interesting")

Valiant Venture – mixed (rated 6.5/10)

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 119: And she Dances on the Sand

I'm not a very sporty person on the whole, but I have been enjoying the Olympics. Despite all the usual problems, most of them self-inflicted by the IOC, it's still good entertainment. Especially seeing my own country's team repeatedly failing to live up to its potential. I've lost count of the number of athletes who've come fourth or sixth or something when they should have got a medal. The worst thing is that we may come behind Australia for the first time in three Games. Argh.

Anyway, ponyfic now. Still no five-star stories, but never mind; there's still some good reading to be had here.

Everypony Hates Dash by Eskerata
What do You do With a Drunken Unicorn? by Tumbleweed
Iron Wing and the Demolition Crew by KingMoriarty
Monochrome by A Man Called Horse
Cold Front by Pascoite

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 8 August 2016

Episode review: S6E14: "The Cart Before the Ponies"

Cheerilee gets the derby underway
"Applejack, in line with Reg. 54(a)(iii) you are disqualified for not driving an open cart"
After last week's excellent episode, I was really looking forward to today's. Writer Ed Valentine has two previous writing credits on Friendship is Magic: the Discord-focused "Three's a Crowd" and the CMC-focused "Flight to the Finish". The latter ep has grown in my affections over time, so I was pretty optimistic about his chances of giving us another fine story featuring the Crusaders. After the break, I'll tell you whether he did.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup and stories vs literature

I read a lot of My Little Pony fanfic. This is pretty obvious, given that I'm well into my third year of Ponyfic Roundup (PR), but it goes beyond that. I know that there are quite a few people out there, including some considerably more accomplished than me, who no longer read MLP stories for fun, but only to review, pre-read, proofread or edit them. I am absolutely not one of those people, and I suspect that affects how I write my PR reviews.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #44

IDW MLP comic no. 44, ROM cover
I have no interest in Rom, but Andy Price's cover is great anyway
I have a new favourite bit from "Stranger than Fan Fiction" – Daring Do wonders how she missed the doors thing, then Quibble goes, "I've been asking myself that ever since Book Four!" That strongly suggests that he does read the newer books, but basically only so he can find new things to complain about. It's exactly the same as the people who comment repeatedly on EQD about how the show's been rubbish since Twilicorn/since Lauren Faust left, but are still miraculously watching it now, in Season Six. :D

Okay, on to the actual comic review. I was undecided about the first issue in this arc, and was hoping that Thom Zahler, Tony Fleecs and Heather Breckel would pick up the pace this time and show us something special. Again, though, I came away with mixed feelings. I rather like the artwork, and Pinkie is reasonably fun-sinister (though I stubbornly still refuse to find clowns creepy). Fluttershy nearly works, but doesn't quite gel in her evil role. Twilight has only a tiny part after the first few pages, too, and the final reveal is frankly so-so rather than thrilling. All in all, not dreadful, but a little disappointing all the same given the plot's potential. ★★

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Text Review Roundup: "Stranger than Fan Fiction"

Rainbow tows Quibble out of the canyon
"And I let go round about... now"
That's right, I've actually remembered to put TRR up this time! My impression has been that this episode has had a very warm reception from most fans – so let's see whether the text reviewers agree. We have a newcomer this week: KrisSimsters.

ArthurCrane – positive ("a fun, satisfying episode")

Articles of Destroyer – equivocal (rated 6.5/10; "on the average side")

Batbrony Reviews – wildly positive ("I loved every minute of it")

Derpy News – extremely positive (graded A)

KrisSimsters – positive ("a good episode")

Louder Yay – very positive ("it's a hit!")

MLP Fanatic – extremely positive ("this episode was amazing")

Super Recaps – very positive ("a really great episode")

TheDragonWarlock – very positive (rated 9/10)

Thrond Media Pony Corner – very positive ("delightful")

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 118: Spotlight on The Twilight Enigma

It's time for another Spotlight issue of PR, and this week it's the turn of the final part of iisaw's trilogy. This began very well with The Celestia Code (PR 59) but dipped slightly in The Luna Cypher (PR 72). Those stories have since been given a slight polish and brush-up, and The Luna Cypher especially benefits from it, but the changes aren't so major that you really need to re-read them. Let's turn to The Twilight Enigma itself.

The Twilight Enigma by iisaw
Twilight, Celestia, Luna and Mane Six
Adventure/Dark; 85k words; Sep 2015–May 2016; Teen
Twilight sets out to learn more of the ways of the world, and soon decides that the whole planet is disorganized, insanely dangerous, and desperately needs to be fixed. And she's just the mare to do it... with a little help from her friends.
This is fundamentally a great adventure yarn in the mould of The Celestia Code. It restores some of the swashbuckling action and fun that went missing at times in the middle book of the series, and generally does so very successfully. Airships play a big role once again, and are used excellently and excitingly, while the twin timelines are kept clear. There's plenty of world-building, mostly sketched with a light hand, and the rest of the Mane Six get plenty to do. I'm rather less fond of the occasional rather clunky intrusion of lore that didn't exist until S5/S6. Still, The Twilight Enigma is fundamentally a very satisfying adventure, and it's an easy recommendation, all the more so if you preferred the first book to the second.  ★★★★

After the break, some more detailed – and spoilery – thoughts.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Pony Music Library 20: "Open Your Eyes"

It's Aviators time again in the PML. As we reach entry no. 20, here's one of my absolute favourite fandom songs of any kind.

What? "Open Your Eyes"

Who? Aviators

Which? Original song

When? May 2013

Why? Just listen to it! What, you want more? All right, all right... the Season Three finale had some wonderful music in its own right, but it also inspired Aviators to create this fantastic piece about Twilight's struggle to fix the spell that has mixed up her friends' lives. It's utterly catchy, with clear, memorable lyrics that really get to me. "My technicolor world has faded to black" is such a brilliant line, too. This song demanded inclusion in the PML.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Episode review: S6E13: "Stranger than Fan Fiction"

Rainbow Dash and Quibble Pants in the rock/ball pit
I suppose it makes sense that Dash would get that extra hour in the ball rock pit...
The shorter than expected mid-season hiatus is over, and new My Little Pony is back on our screens. We kicked off the second part of Season Six with an episode that many were cautious about – though I was simply pleased to have fanfic referenced at all! The episode was jointly written by Josh Haber, making his first appearance in that role since joining Dave Polsky on the solid "On Your Marks", and Michael Vogel, who had written "Spice Up Your Life" and for whom this was his second successive episode. After the break: is it a hit or a miss?