Monday, 30 April 2018

Episode review: S8E07: "Horse Play"

A remorseful Twilight and an angry Celestia fly from left to right through the purple night sky
Celestia has most definitely had enough of Twi's... yeah
For the second week running, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic had a new writer debuting an episode. This time it was Kaita Mpambara, who although new to this show has a reasonably extensive CV in animation. I don't remember seeing anything by him before, but then there aren't many other cartoons I watch where the writers are especially well known. After the page break, let's see how he did with "Horse Play".

Sunday, 29 April 2018

UK PonyCon: VIP upgrades sell out in half an hour; amazingly, I have one! :D

Tickets went on sale for this UK PonyCon 2018 at midday on Saturday, and since I was on my way to a Worcester ponymeet at the time I dropped into the local library to buy my ticket. (I don't like doing this sort of thing on a phone; I like to have a keyboard available.) I was originally going to buy the middle-tier Supporter ticket, as I had last year, which was (and is) solid value at £45.

But then I got to thinking. I always buy the con T-shirt, which generally costs about £15. I always pay the couple of quid to upgrade from a basic to a con-specific lanyard. I sometimes buy the con tote bag. Put those together and you get... well, I don't know exactly, but more than £20. So my total expenditure on these things was likely to be £65 at a minimum whatever I did.

Now here's the thing: if you bought the £70 VIP ticket (technically a £35 ticket plus a £35 upgrade, but same result) that reserved you a goodie bag in which you got the T-shirt, the tote bag and a special lanyard. You also got a VIP-exclusive art print and button badge. Plus priority entry and seating, though I don't usually want to sit at the front so probably won't use the latter much.

So, long story short, I went VIP. This is the first time I have ever bought a top-tier ticket for a convention, and it's actually quite exciting! It's a good job I made the decision quickly, though – because you know I said that last year VIP tickets sold out in six hours? This year it took around thirty minutes. I was expecting them to be popular, but sweet Celestia that's amazing.

I suspect VIP tickets may cost more in future years, if indeed there are future VIP tickets (and UKPCs!), so this may be the only time I have a Posh Pony's Pass. I'm not too fussed about that, as I didn't feel I missed out with a Supporter-tier ticket in 2017. But still... it'll be interesting now to see how quickly the non-VIP tickets sell out. If you want to go, I'd definitely recommend buying as soon as you can!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

WoodLore has gone :(

I may not have been as big a fan of WoodLore's music as some people, but I certainly liked some of his songs and respected his skill as a musician. So I was surprised and disappointed to find out (from Armosk on EqD, actually) that he deleted his channel a few weeks ago, taking all his Pony music down with it. His Bandcamp is gone, too. I'd been thinking about losses in the fandom recently, and this is another sad one.

Back in 2017, WoodLore did an April Fool video about "leaving the fandom" – but it seems that, a year later, he was serious about it, and so did the deed. The songs themselves have (mostly?) been reuploaded already, and from comments I've seen here and there, WoodLore himself isn't going to be too fussed about that. Yes, he has every right to delete his channel and his songs. I just wish he hadn't felt the need to.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Surf and/or Turf"

A niggling-and-sometimes-worse backache is stopping me writing as much as I should be (hence the long delay in the next chapter of The Danger Within) but at least I can get this week's TRR sorted out. We may no longer have Batbrony's thoughts (a real loss, that) and there's nothing from Rhythm Red this time either, but there are still a reasonable number of text-based reviewers out there. One newcomer this week, though he'd been doing this for a while before I noticed: Mega Sean 45.

A very well received episode overall, with not a single reviewer outright disliking it and quite a few rating it their favourite of S8 so far.

Cuddlepug – mildly positive (graded B-; "all a little bit over- simplistic and twee, but the show should be applauded for exploring a realistic challenge that many kids face")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "a very good episode, though some may find some aspects a bit off")

JDPrime22 – very positive (9/10; "Another great episode. Season 8 is on a winning streak!")

Louder Yay – very positive (4/5; "not perfect, but I nevertheless enjoyed it more than anything else [this season]")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("I found this episode very enjoyable and a nice sequel to the movie, and a great new use of the CMCs!")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (9/10; "presents a very mature subject [and] makes for a really great episode")

Rainbine – wildly positive (10/10; "a fantastic watch from the humor to the sweet moment at the end")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("the cuteness and funny levels were off the charts!")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (graded B+; "[The CMC] didn't really contribute much to the resolution [but] The comedy is good, the characterizations are solid, and the song itself is great.")

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 200: Tough at the Top?

And here we are! PR has reached its two hundredth edition. I had a number of suggestions as to how I could mark this, and I'm planning on using several of them for future editions. This week, though, I'm doing something very simple: reviewing Fimfiction's top-rated stories of under 20,000 words. (At the time of selection – the order changes from day to day.) I'm sticking to one story per author – sorry, Rambling Writer, as you're hit by this rule.

Read it Later story count: 337 (+1)

The top-rated fic of all that meets my criteria is not part of this roundup, for the simple reason that I've already read it! In fact, I've read the top three: Hoopy McGee's The Keepers of Discord (PR 138), ye olde classique by PhantomFox Sunny Skies All Day Long (PR 30) and Rune Soldier Dan's To Try for the Sun (PR 116). The next story is eligible for review today, so let's begin our journey through these six (count 'em!) highly-rated fics with that one:

The Lazy Dragon of Dragonvale by Georg
Best Hell Ever by Rambling Writer
Just Dodge! by DannyJ
Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent! by Conner Cogwork
Twilightning by Bok
All the Mortal Remains by Cold in Gardez

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

Monday, 23 April 2018

Episode review: S8E06: "Surf and/or Turf"

A very happy Scootaloo, as a seapony, with clumps of seaweed behind her
Okay, no need for an actual review this week. Ten stars!
We had a new writer for Friendship is Magic this week: Brian Hohlfeld. Although new to this show, he's certainly no newbie when it comes to writing for animated series, having been heavily involved in the creation of Transformers: Rescue Bots along with a certain Nicole Dubuc. After last week's flawed but still generally pretty fun "Grannies Gone Wild", what would "Surf and/or Turf" bring us?

Friday, 20 April 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Grannies Gone Wild"

I'm a day late with TRR this week, for no other reason than that I forgot about it. Sorry! Anyway, here we go again. I've dropped Michaelsety's review this week as, sadly, his non-native English has proved beyond me to interpret. On the plus side, I've added Batbrony back in – the formal reviews seem to have gone for good, sadly, but there's a hot take in the MLP Forums ep discussion thread that will do me.

Reaction to this episode was largely positive, with Cuddlepug a notable dissenter from the consensus.

Batbrony – generally positive ("a fun, solid, entertaining episode")

Cuddlepug – extremely negative (graded D-; "As episodes of Friendship is Magic go, "Grannies Gone Wild" is among the most pointless – and the most uncomfortable.")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B+; "just a funny episode and a breather one")

JDPrime22 – very positive (9/10; "The comedy was great, the writing was fun [...] Fantastic episode")

Louder Yay – positive (3/5; "superior filler [...] just Fun With Colourful Talking Ponies")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (10/10; "an overall very entertaining and worthwhile episode")

Rainbine – mildly positive (6/10; "a very simple episode")

Rhythm Red – positive (8/10; "a fantastic lesson, and a creative storyline")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("I really enjoyed each of [the Golden Horseshoe Gals'] personalities")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (graded B; "a fun episode all around ... Never listen to Applejack; ever.")

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 199: In the Valleys of the Land of Song

Title explanation: this song

The weather seems at long last to be taking a turn for the better. After what seems like an eternity of cold, grey murk, the sun has been seen this week – and by this time of year, with sunset not until after 8pm, when it does come out it can feel very warm even if the air temperature is still in the teens. However, this is not Weather Roundup, so let's move on.

Read it Later story count: 336 (-2)

Thanks in part to finally getting a new mobile with a screen big enough to read on without squinting, I've managed another five-fic week! If you're old enough, you may dimly recall a period when I did this all the time. Quite a mix of themes and characters this time, though one fic is there specifically because of one I reviewed last week. The five are:

Life Choices by UnlicensedBrony
Anytime by Super Trampoline
Words Unspoken by wille179
I Don't Hate Cutie Marks by Forces of Darkness
She Said No by Kodeake

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

Monday, 16 April 2018

Episode review: S8E05: "Grannies Gone Wild"

The four Golden Horseshoe Gals stand in a group listening to Goldie Delicious
Granny's mane looks really, really strange like that
Last week, we had an episode with a team-up I'd wanted for years but which clearly failed to be a classic, even if I did soften my initial dislike of it on repeat viewing. This time around we had "Grannies Gone Wild", a title I'm a little surprised Hasbro approved. This was a G. M. Berrow episode, which suggested something fairly light, and we had Granny Smith with her friends and a side order of AJ/Dash friction. Sounded like a recipe for fun. In the event...

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Group plug: "8-bit Ponies"

A couple of days ago, a Fimfiction member named palelordhiphis (who to my knowledge I'd never previously encountered) and I had a conversation in the Shameless Self-Promotion group. They'd posted some really nice Apple ][ pony graphics, and in another thread I'd posted a few of my BBC Micro song covers – including the one above. SweetAl Belle suggested a group for those who like 8-bit computers and ponies and palelordhiphis went right ahead and created one. And, well, here it is! You can find both the threads I've mentioned in it, but with luck there'll be more in the future.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Fake It 'Til You Make It"

I keep forgetting to mention this, but it pleased me greatly that Amy Keating Rogers opened a tweet recently with the words "Hey everypony!" Some people in the fandom get amazingly worked up about that sort of language being used among humans, but thanks to AKR's tweet I can now respond most eloquently: Hah!

Who knows whether Treehouse will mess up TRR once again? Until that happens, though, I'll carry on in my usual manner. No ArthurCrane once again, so I will now assume he's called a halt. Batbrony, on the other hoof, has mentioned that things are pretty hectic in his life right now, so I may check in on him again. One new reviewer: JDPrime22 from Fimfiction.

Reaction to this episode was distinctly mixed.

Cuddlepug – middling (graded B-; one of Cuddlepug's non-review reviews)

Derpy News – mixed (graded B-; "had the potential to be an A-episode, but it gets derailed by Fluttershy getting too much into [her] characters")

JDPrime22 – broadly positive (7/10; "we've already gone over similar lessons before for Fluttershy [but] still a good episode")

Louder Yay – mildly negative (2.5/5; "Superb VA work from Andrea Libman [but a m]issed opportunity for some rare extended [Fluttershy and Rarity] interaction")

Michaelsety – fairly positive (graded B; looks nice and background ponies are good, but the moral isn't clear)

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (9/10; "managed to do right what 'Putting Your Hoof Down' did wrong")

Rainbine – very positive (9/10; "genuinely funny [and the] moral [...] is very good")

Rhythm Red – mildly positive (7/10; "despite some of the episode being a little unrealistic, overall there were plenty of laughs")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("we get to see [Fluttershy's] confidence go just a little bit too far. Though, I sure am enjoying the new, confident, Fluttershy!")

TheDragonWarlock – mildly negative (graded C+; "has good ideas in it, but it's mired in all the massive plot holes and inconsistencies")

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 198: Meeting Mr Miandad

Title explanation: this song

I may not have enjoyed the most recent show episode as much as I'd have liked, but I am still very much on the ride as far as FiM as a whole is concerned. Some good people have decided recently to call it a day (Ceffyl Dwr, to take just one example) and I wish them the very best in their future writing endeavours.  But as for me? I'll still plug away with the ponyfic reviews, so here goes.

Read it Later story count: 338 (-6)

I've done a bit better this week than I did for the last PR a fortnight ago, and have finally got back up to five fics in a week again, so let's get cracking. Today for your delight and delectation, I have reviews of the following stories:

Please, Count to Five by Magello
The Sun is A Star by Night Doughnut
Berry Punch's House Can Talk by Glimglam
"We Never Had a Single Fight" by oh pony
Feeling That Way by Super Trampoline

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

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

We may be getting Treehoused again

Apparently, Treehouse (the channel that broadcasts FiM in Canada) is running on a two-episodes-per-weekend schedule again. If they keep on doing this, they'll overtake the US by the end of April. This doesn't really bother me – after all, it feels as though half the fandom has already seen every episode from six to 13 anyway thanks to the leaks – but it does mean I'll have to think about how I'm going to play this as far as Louder Yay is concerned.

My intention right now is to stick with the US schedule for episode reviews. Writing two a week would just tire me out. What happens to Text Review Roundup I have no idea – last time we had this situation I had to abandon it as it became unworkable, so be prepared for that to happen again. I quite enjoy doing TRR, though, and as far as I'm aware nobody else in the fandom does such a thing, so I'll keep it going if I can.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Episode review: S8E04: "Fake It 'Til You Make It"

Fluttershy and Rarity hugging, both smiling with closed eyes, in front of greenery
See this picture? This is what I wanted from this episode
Season 8's first two episodes had been reasonably entertaining without blowing me away, so I was anxious for something really great to assuage any worries that we might be in for another S6-style run of mehness. I was also nervouscited that "Fake It 'Til You Make It" would be a Fluttershy/Rarity episode – perhaps only the third the show has had after "Green Isn't Your Color" and "Filli Vanilli". The writer was Josh Hamilton, whose record with me has been mixed. How did he do? Past the break I'll give some brief thoughts.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Potential new blog subtitle!

YouTube screenshot by someone insisting that anyone who likes post-S5 ponies is "not actually a real fan"
Annoyingly, this wasn't around on 1st April. (Mind you, neither was I.) So I can't just change my blog subtitle to "Not actually a real fan" and see how long it takes anyone to notice. Considering how few people have ever remarked on the name of the blog or the reason why its title bar is that particular shade of yellow, it might have been a while...

Have some context, therefore – this is, of course, from YouTube. Please note that it is a fact that as well as not being a "true fan", I now hate Fluttershy. And Celestia. And Scootaloo. And the whole darn lot of 'em, apparently. I like post-S5 Pony, so I cannot be a real fan. Not sure what I've been doing for the past six years, but hey ho. Sorry about that. Look out on Wednesday for Ponyfic Roundup 198: I Hate The Show And The Characters And Basically Just Everything Edition.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

UK PonyCon venue and ticket prices announced!

This is the one I know a lot of fans in the UK have been waiting for ever since last year's UK PonyCon finished. Yes, we already had the dates (13/14 October) but the make-or-break detail for many people, in terms of whether they'll be able to go at all, is where the convention will be held. Well, wait no longer! As the official site now proclaims, UK PonyCon 2018 will be held at the...

Nottingham Conference Centre

This is associated with Nottingham Trent University, so in that sense it's a similar deal to last year's con at UWE in Bristol. A major difference, however, is that the NCC is in the city centre. Well, on the northern edge of it, anyway — it's about a 15-minute walk from the main railway station, and also within reach of a decent range of hotels.

As for tickets, they will go on sale at midday BST on Saturday 28 April, and full details are on the site. For convenience, though, I'll summarise here, especially as the pricing structure has changed a bit since 2017.

The key point is that a Standard Adult Weekend ticket will cost £35. This price has been held since last year, with the trade-off being that there will not be an Early Bird discount this time. I think that's a sensible and fair approach. As I said last year, UK PonyCon has a good reputation for offering reasonably-priced tickets, and it's pleasing to see that the convention is maintaining this in 2018.

The Supporter tier from last year will again be available, but this year it'll be sold as an upgrade rather than a separate ticket type, with a simple pricing setup: upgrading will cost a flat £10 per person. There is one exception, which I'm very pleased to see: upgrading a family ticket will be £20. Last year this cost £40, which I felt was a bit steep, so applause to UKPC for the change.

There'll also be a VIP tier, with various privileges such as early entry, which will carry a £35pp premium. These tickets sold out in the space of six hours last year, so get in quick if you want one! Perhaps unsurprisingly after last year's supplier problems, the included goodie bag does not include a plushie. Instead, you'll get an art print to go with your tote bag, T-shirt, VIP lanyard and badge.

As you'd expect, there will be reduced-price tickets for children (aged 4 to 12), as well as one-day tickets. New for 2018 is that Saturday-only tickets are slightly more expensive than Sunday-only ones, in view of the longer Saturday programme. For example, an Adult Saturday-only ticket will cost £23, whereas the Sunday equivalent will be £19. (Last year they were both £21.)

I'll write up another post in the near future with some more thoughts, for example on transport. But this will do for now. So, although you can't actually buy tickets for another three weeks, I'll end with a link to the place where you will be able to buy them when the time comes:

Friday, 6 April 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Maud Couple"

Almost back on schedule now! Neither ArthurCrane nor Batbrony have resumed episode reviews, unfortunately. If they don't post reviews next week either, I'll assume they've called it a day. Feather Heart hasn't posted a review of episode 3, either. However, there's a detailed review from Analysis is Magic, and we still have a reasonable collection for those, like me, who don't want to sit through rambly videos and would rather read rambly posts in a quarter the time.

This episode was generally seen as being a bit less good than the premiere.

Analysis is Magic – rather negative ("Mud Briar just comes off as irritating to such a degree that Pinkie Pie’s dislike almost feels justified")

Cuddlepug – positive (graded B+; "explores jealousy in a suspenseful way the show hasn't covered before")

Derpy News – mixed (graded B-; "not a terrible episode, technically, but I don’t believe it will be in the top half of Season Eight")

Louder Yay – mildly positive (3/5; "a middle-ranking effort from Confalone")

Michaelsety – negative (graded D)

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (5.5/10; "hit and miss")

Rainbine – negative (4/10; "the worst Pinkie Pie episode I have seen so far")

Rhythm Red – quite positive (7.5/10; "pretty good, but it just didn’t pack the amount of comedy that I expected")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("a funny, fun, fun, Maud episode!")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (graded B-; "I don't hate the episode, [but] it's certainly not that interesting")

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Episode review: S8E03: "The Maud Couple"

Mudbriar looks at his "vision board" which shows lots of indistinct lit rectangles. Mudbriar's eyes are closed
"Technically, Tales is G1, not G2, as you can see here"
Easter having got in the way, this review will necessarily be a rather short one. It's either that or not get it done at all. "The Maud Couple" was written by Nick Confalone, whose last outing for the show was "Rock Solid Friendship" just under a year ago. That was a Maud-and-Pinkie episode with Starlight as a supporting act, in which I found Pinkie pretty annoying at times. So, what would this year's Maudisode bring?