Thursday, 20 June 2019

Text Review Roundup: "The Last Crusade"

Time for today's TRR. Before going any further, I ought to mention that The Railfan Brony quite frequently refers to episodes of Thomas [the Tank Engine] and Friends. I haven't watched that show since the days when Ringo Starr was the narrator, so I never pick out those phrases to include here. If you do know Thomas, you might find it interesting to read TRB's reviews and note those passages yourself.

Anyway, "The Last Crusade" was generally well received, with only one featured reviewer actively disliking the ep – though in all fairness I must say that I know of at least three other people who were distinctly unimpressed. Two were Soge and Griffin, whose thoughts you can read in my review's comments, and a third is someone who as far as I know hasn't mentioned their view publicly and so will remain unnamed here.

Aunts Lofty and Holiday gained widespread praise and were often considered the best things in the episode. However, quite a few reviewers had reservations when it came to the portrayal of Scootaloo's parents. I was irritated by this more than some reviewers, which meant my overall assessment was a little more negative than the average, though still a long way from being damning.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "emotionally fraught [...] you'd be forgiven for shedding a tear or two [...] During Pride, [Scootaloo's aunts are] especially welcome. [...] You couldn't have asked for a more satisfying end to [the CMCs'] story.")

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("I love Last Crusade! Not my favorite of the series, but my favorite of the season thus far, and I argue (barely) the best of the season, too.")
Not a full review, for reasons outlined here

DrakeyC – positive ("cool they did it [Scoot's aunts] I very much appreciate the episode thoroughly disproves Scootabuse [...] stock CMC comical filly antics")

Dramamaster829 – broadly positive ("[The episode proves] how important [the CMCs'] friendship is to the show [Scoot's parents'] communication skills are lackluster [...] I think [Rainbow Dash] was just thrown in just for appearances [Scoot's aunts] were very engaging characters with awesome chemistry")

JDPrime22 – fairly positive (rated 8/10; Why [Scootaloo] didn't even mention [her parents] once over the past NINE SEASONS is beyond me [...] this message was fairly strong, her parents letting Scootaloo decide for herself [...] Oh, and Diamond Tiara exists again, remember her?")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("very good, but also emotional [...] helped me fully realise that there is nothing wrong with some people being gay, and it is fine to show gay couples in kids' media [...] happy with how everything worked out in the end")

Louder Yay – positive with substantial reservations (rated 3/5; "I'm not sure I can fully reconcile [this and "Parental Glideance"] I liked that little observation [about the CMC's cutie marks] As with one or two other Dubuc episodes, there's a slight lack of coherence to this one [but] the aunts have annoyed a whole bunch of people who needed to be annoyed, and that counts for something :D")

Mike Cartoon Pony – largely positive ("a swansong to the CMC [...] Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood are not presented in the most positive light [...] Holiday and Lofty are wonderful characters, absolute sweethearts [the second act is] mostly just pushing the plot on autopilot [...] has to settle for being "good" rather then the show masterpiece it might have been")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 9/10; "so great to finally meet Scootaloo's family at last [...] I absolutely love how it's Scootaloo's aunts that are the ones that help the CMC realize the solution to the conflict")

Present Perfect – positive ("I love how much personality they crammed into [Scootaloo's aunts] part of me wants to slam this episode for being nothing but “hey, kids!” moments [but the episode was] done tastefully and with style")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Terrible; "It's nice to see [Scoot] hype [her parents] up as cool [and her aunts are] very progressive in a kid's show [but the episode] very much goes for the "Status Quo is God" trope, which is one of the worst [and] the end result is really frustrating")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (rated 9/10; "may arguably be the best Cutie Mark Crusader episode [...] brings some nice closure [though] the way [her parents] try to get Scootaloo to come to terms with the big move is well...cold [...] It really is a great way to end the CMC though")

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 254

Before I get on with Ponyfic Roundup itself, I ought to give a quick signal boost to The Fimfiction Feghoot Festival, run by Super Trampoline. This is now open and runs until 14th July. You'll need a Fimfiction account to enter, but otherwise it's open to all-comers. There are actual real prizes for this one, too! (A feghoot is a short story ending in a terrible pun that's been set up by the story itself.)

Read it Later story count: 254 (nc)

Three stories this week, which is three more than I would have if I'd reviewed none at all but half as many as I'd have if I'd reviewed them all twice and pretended they were different fics. See you in St Ives.

Misadventures in Manehattan by The Princess Rarity
Now Hiring by miss-cyan
The Brief, Torrid Love-Affair of Fernando the Straw and Madame Le Flour by CoffeeMinion

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

Monday, 17 June 2019

Episode review: S9E12: "The Last Crusade"

Scootaloo and family. I don't think Derpy and co count!
Ah, finally! As most of the MLP-watching world will know, "The Last Crusade" made the mainstream news headlines last week. That made it bloody hard for me to avoid mentioning it until now! (Well, actually until yesterday evening, as I have a 24-hour blackout period on Twitter.) But at last I can post this review. The episode was written by Nicole Dubuc, whose record with me has been variable. Read on to discover my thoughts this time.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Student Counsel"

Time to be awesome getting on with this week's Text Review Roundup, I feel. I never quite know from week to week whether TRR is going to go up on Thursday or Friday, but I suppose it doesn't really make much difference. In any case, we'll be into the very last mid-season hiatus soon, though some of that will be filled by the FiM special that's on its way. Who knows what Italian TV will do, though? For all I know they'll have shown the series finale by August!

Going back to "Student Counsel", the text-based reviewing crowd covered a fair range of assessments. For the second time in recent weeks, MLEEP was unimpressed, something quite notable from this usually sunny reviewer. The Railfan Brony didn't like the ep either. At the other end of the scale, DrakeyC loved it and Present Perfect judged this his favourite episode of S9 thus far. My own review was in the the pack, albeit towards the back of it.

Cuddlepug – fairly positive (graded B; "surprisingly relatable for older audiences [...] the message isn't necessarily encouraging [...] Funny dialogue and strong interactions")

Dark Qiviut – broadly positive ("spends a good amount of time gradually building tension [...] dialogue was also top-notch, adding to both the humor and drama [...] really good lesson [but Silverstream's late admission] all but made Starlight's stress over "not doing her job" pointless and marginalizes the moral")

DrakeyC – very positive ("great from the first scene [...] they actually made [Mudbriar] funny this time [...] great comedy, a good adventure, and a good moral")

Dramamaster829 – positive with reservations ("this is why I enjoy [Starlight and Trixie] as ‘flawed protagonists’ [...] Maud Pie and Mudbriar are definitely enjoyable to watch [but the] lack of communication as to where [Silverstream] was going to go did put not only her counselor in danger, but also her friends")

JDPrime22 – fairly positive (rated 8/10; "DWK is gonna lose his freakin' mind [...] seriously? You're at least not gonna tell anyone where you are, Silverstream?) [...] We got a redemption for the cockatrice... kind of. Yeah, this was a weird one. Maud stole the show, though.")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("quite enjoyable having the focus on Starlight, and the number of secondary characters appearing [...] funny how Smolder cheekily burnt all of the pages in Gallus' book [...] great character development for Starlight")

Louder Yay – mildly positive (rated "just" 3/5; "a slightly odd episode [...] not everything gelled perfectly [... S&T's] characters complement each other so well [...] not sure Silverstream was entirely convincing [...] I never thought I'd say this, but I rather liked Mudbriar")

Mike Cartoon Pony – mixed ("As most of this unveils, it does so rather dully [...] Maud and Mudbriar were the standouts [...] moral of basically balancing your work and personal life doesn't come across with much real nuance [though it did] stick the landing [...] a plentiful selection of good comedy too")

MLEEP Reviews – rather negative (rated 5/10; "Maud's usual brand of deadpan humor [but disliked Starlight] abandoning Silverstream in her time of need in order to attend a Spring Solstice party [and] for the first third of the episode, we have to sit through the same repetitive joke")

Present Perfect – very positive ("I am honestly floored by how much Maud and Mudbriar’s interactions and one-liners enhance the overall excellence of this episode [...] Trixie was perfect as perfect can be, it’s all about balancing life-work whatchamacallit, she just wants to spend time with her girlfriend.")

The Railfan Brony –  negative (rated Bad; "nothing new or interesting in regards to the story. The theme isn't new either [...] one of the most boring episodes of the entire show")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (rated 8/10; "another solid Starlight episode [with] its own surprises [...] a rather good moral [...] I really question how time is working here now [...] feels like Silverstream is rather out of character")

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 253: Spotlight on Firebird Dahlia

Read it Later story count: 253 (-1)

Originally, I wasn't going to make Firebird Dahlia a Spotlight story. It was going to be one of several in the usual manner. But as time went on, it became clear that I had more I wanted to say about the fic than I could fit in even a longish single paragraph. As ever with Spotlit stories, there's a non-spoilery review up here, followed by some more detailed (and more spoilery!) comments further down the page.

Firebird Dahlia by The Albinocorn
Sunset Shimmer, Spitfire, OCs and Other
Drama/Slice of Life; 49k words; Jan 2015–Jun 2016; Everyone
Sunset goes home to Equestria to reconcile with her family. But ten years is a large bridge to gap, especially between sisters.
This is set after Rainbow Rocks, so Sunset is reformed and has friends in CHS-world, but returning to Equestria is still a huge deal. Especially given that her pony family lies in ruins, with her parents separated and her sister still furious and ice-cold over the incident that led to their rift ten years ago. (Ten years Equestrian: it's only been three for Sunset due to timey-wimey stuff.) And her sister is Spitfire. This is a sisterly pairing I've never seen before, and it actually works really well, especially as Sunset is the only unicorn in a family of pegasi; this does cause issues. There are a lot of flashbacks, through which we gradually learn the harsh truth of what happened to drive the sisters so far apart. Sunset also meets Celestia for the first time since she left Equestria. The fic really peaks around two-thirds of the way through, after which the rest is a tad on the predictable side, though it's still enjoyable thanks to solid character work – Sunset's parents are nicely drawn OCs, too. There's also a slightly bizarre but amusing late-story tie-in with "Make New Friends But Keep Discord", Smooze and all. If you really like Sunset, or indeed Spitfire, this is a must-read. For everyone else, it's still recommended. ★★★★

I have more to say about this one, but there will be major spoilers ahead. If you don't want to see those, please read no further!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Episode review: S9E11: "Student Counsel"

"Rose... you do know it says 'Krastos Brand' on that bottle?"
Call me crazy if you like, but I think I might just have a go at reviewing a My Little Pony episode now. So... in "Mish Mash Melee", we see th— whoops, wrong gen. Cough. In fact, we have "Student Counsel" to consider now. This was a Josh Haber episode, so I was expecting some fun scenes, perhaps a monster and probably something I found a little irritating too. Past the break, I'll say rather more about the episode.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Episode review coming on Tuesday again

I've been out with friends for most of today, and though I had a good time I am now very tired. As such, I'll be watching the episode (again; I've already seen it thanks to the Italian releases) on Sunday and writing up the review on Monday. No other big changes planned. :)

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Gone to Seed"

It's that time of the week again, so let's get on with the latest TRR. You know, I'm going to miss writing up this feature when the show's finally over and done with. It's nothing very special, but as far as I know there's nobody else out there who does anything quite like this. Video-based reviews are where it's at for most people, but as everyone knows I'm not most people. Going to try to keep the extracts a bit shorter this week!

For this episode, the text-based reviewers were generally clustered around the middle ground. With the exception of MLEEP, who loved it, nobody either adored or detested this one. To some extent, its reception depended on how reviewers felt about a rather slow-paced, down-home episode with a small cast and no real thrills. My own assessment was in the pack, albeit in the upper half of it, on this occasion.

Cuddlepug – positive with reservations (graded B-; "well-written and interesting [but] a fairly silly outcome that isn't entirely believable [and is] a massive anti-climax. Still, everything up until the last couple of minutes is grand")

Dark Qiviut – mixed ("The first half is loaded with exposition [...] Until the end of the flashback, it was really slow and bland [but] the rest of the episode picks up from there, focusing on Apple Bloom and AJ's bond.")

DrakeyC – rather negative ("I'm not sure what this episode was supposed to be because there was a lot of disparate elements here that didn't really gel")

Dramamaster829 – mildly positive ("a simplistic story where nothing is truly at stake, except perhaps the spirit of youth [...] I’ve learned three things to never discuss: Religion, politics, and the Great Seedling.")

JDPrime22 – fairly positive (rated 7/10; "a fairly interesting episode [...] Gotta love them deer (are they pets or are they their own intelligent species?)")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("The Great Seedling is such an interesting legend [...] wonderful that we get to see yet another flashback featuring Applejack's parents [...] moral was pretty good")

Louder Yay – fairly positive (rated 3/5; "There's nothing especially extraordinary about "Gone to Seed", but it's solid and nicely crafted and has a pretty decent message when all's said and done.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – broadly positive ("at its best when its portraying Applejack well and enjoying its time with her and Apple Bloom [...] the episode's a bit of an apple itself: simple and largely unremarkable, but healthy and good for you, and with its sell-by-date well in the future")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 10/10; "it had great music, it had a wonderful theme and there's something about the bluntness of the Apple Family that's actually very refreshing")

Present Perfect – positive ("certainly a fair sight better than any of [AJ's] solo or duo episodes since… Season 5? [...] solidly middle-of-the-road, gave us some fun stuff to watch, and had a pretty good moral [...] the Great Seedling's design is fantastic")

The Railfan Brony – rather negative (rated Bad; "nothing really happens [...] The characters and theme in general were fine, but the story's pretty slow-paced with nothing spectacular going on.")

TheDragonWarlock – rather negative (rated 5.5/10; "The plot is predictable, but not done in a fun way, the writing is mediocre, and the whole thing feels so boring and uneventful [...] Dave Rapp really never found his stride with FiM")

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 252

Read it Later story count: 254 (+3)

My RiL list has grown this week, more so than it has for a long time. Curse those recommendations from friends and other reviewers! Anyway, I actually managed to read the story I trailed last week, so yay for that. I even managed to read some other stuff as well, so double yay. (Can you do that? Can you yay twice?) Today's selection of equine entertainment is as follows:

The Motion of the Stars by Carabas
Just an Old Fool by Minds Eye
"Daleks Have No Concept of Friendship!" by RainbowDoubleDash
Continue? by naturalbornderpy

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

Monday, 3 June 2019

Episode review: S9E10: "Gone to Seed"

I almost missed this lovely touch, but AB is doing a Pinkie Promise here
I should probably mention before going any further that I now have seen the Italian early releases, since I found versions with English soundtracks. I will of course not be even hinting at any spoilers for episodes that haven't yet aired on Discovery Family, so please don't anyone else do that either, not even in the comments. Thanks! Anyway, "Gone to Seed" was Dave Rapp's first episode since "The Parent Map". More relevantly perhaps, he also wrote "Where the Apple Lies" in S6. Past the break for more!

Friday, 31 May 2019

Griffish Isles, Final Thoughts

A few hours later than I'd intended this post to go up, but here's my final (planned) post about Griffish Isles for the time being. The con will be sending out official requests for feedback at some point in the near future, and I certainly intend to complete mine – but I also want to give some thoughts in public. So...

Edit: Whoops, forgot to include a page break! This is fairly long, so I'll add one now.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Sweet and Smoky"

More than one reviewer has spelt the last name of this episode's title "Smokey", so I had to go back and check! I go by the on-screen title in the ep itself, and that's definitely "Smoky", so I'm sticking with that from here on in. :P Last week's "Frenemies" was overwhelmingly (though not quite universally) praised, which made it a bit of a hard act to follow for Kim Beyer-Johnson, especially given her rather disastrous debut episode of FiM. Most felt she'd improved drastically on that.

The reviewers were a little more mixed in their assessments of this episode than they were last week. Although most came out on the positive side of neutral, most also had at least one significant criticism. Fluttershy got really good press, though! You'll note that some of the quote sections are quite a bit longer than usual – there were just too many reviews where cutting the summary down to a line or two was nearly impossible! I'll try to get back to my usual succinctness next week.

Cuddlepug – negative (graded D; "a mean-spirited episode of Friendship is Magic that makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience [...] seeing bullies get away with shitty behaviour with very little punishment until the absolute end of the script isn't my idea of a good time.")

Dark Qiviut – broadly positive ("This episode has rough edges. There were areas that could've definitely been improved on, one of them making [the side dragons] less half-dimensional. [However c]haracters remained in character. Beyer-Johnson expands dragon lore more. [Spike,] Fluttershy, and Smolder share great moments, and Garble reforms.")

DrakeyC – positive with one big exception ("the individual components of this episode are all great [...] But... Garble. I wanna care about this redemption, I really do. But, I don't. And the reason is it isn't earned. [...] It was so satisfying to see Smolder and Fluttershy put him in his place at last.")

Dramamaster829 – mildly positive ("Because of all the cute and comedic moments that were displayed throughout the episode, I can forgive some of the episode’s own faults and abrupt choice of an ending so in a way I still had fun.")

JDPrime22 – broadly positive (rated 8/10; "Gotta say, the whole bullying Spike thing has really gotten old [but] mama Fluttershy really did steal the show (and Ember trying to imitate her was hilarious) [...] I thought the redemption was okay. At least it closes Garble's arc after so many damn seasons")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("It was great to see Ember again [...] Spike was great as well [...] The moral was pretty good too, being about how differences should be something to be proud of.")

Louder Yay – fairly positive (rated 3/5; "excellent to see Dragon Lord Ember again [...] Fluttershy [...] displayed a winning combination of adorableness and assertiveness [but] I was not especially impressed [with Garble, and t]he side-character dragons were pretty boring")

Mike Cartoon Pony – mixed ("vastly superior to Non-Compete Clause [though] far from great [...] I'm probably one of five people that doesn't detest or at least dislike Garble [...] Alas, this episode's attempt to craft a "redemption story" around him doesn't deliver [...] a shame, because otherwise, this one had a lot going for it. The characterisation of the 4 other main characters is quite unusually good")

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (rated 7.5/10; "Pros: Fluttershy [but the] ending felt like a seriously schmaltzy deus ex machina [...] never been a fan of Garble [...] an alright middle-of-the-road episode")

Present Perfect – very positive ("This was fantastic. [The ending was] was maybe the most surreal this show has ever been. [...] a good turn for Smolder, it’s always a joy seeing Ember, and Fluttershy was in top fucking form. [...] This was funny, it was clever, and it gave us a ton of Dragon Lands world-building.")

The Railfan Brony – fairly positive (rated Good; "Garble was very much one of the last characters I even considered redemption worthy. And yet... it works. [...] Even nicer was Fluttershy calling [Garble] out for being a bully to Spike for all those years [...] story and moral are pretty humdrum, but fortunately, the execution of both and the character moments pull through")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (rated 7.5/10; "The ideas for this episode sound fantastic and I generally was very interested in this episode [but n]othing really gets explained much about what happens once the baby dragons are hatched [and] as far as [a] face turn goes, [Garble's] is probably the weakest one I've seen yet [...] it's really Spike and Fluttershy who are the main characters")

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 251

Read it Later story count: 251 (-4)

Another of those weeks when Logan didn't do any damn work have the time to read more than a few fics. Celestia knows how I'm ever going to get round to the longer stories that glare balefully at me from my RiL list. Nine Days Down has been languishing on there for ages. So has Contraptionology! And Firebird Dahlia. You get the idea. Still, something is better than nothing, right? There are three fics under the dodgy pound-shop microscope this week, and they are:

Discord's Garden by ChaoticKindness
Dat's Our Ragamuffin! by PresentPerfect
Hollow by Dustchu

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

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Episode review: S9E09: "Sweet and Smoky"

Smolder still loves her tea parties, though here with somewhat draconic manners!
So far, I've managed to avoid any details (beyond synopses) of what happens in the Italian early release episodes. I have gathered that there's at least one major spoiler in there, so hooves crossed that I can keep away from it until the time comes for its DF broadcast! Anyway, this week on DF we had "Sweet and Smoky". This was written by Kim Beyer-Johnson, previously infamous for the very disappointing "Non-Compete Clause". Could K B-J redeem herself with her new episode?

Monday, 27 May 2019

Griffish Isles, Merch Haul

Today is a Bank Holiday and I've been quite busy over the (extended) weekend, so the episode review will be up tomorrow. I'll be back to my usual schedule for the rest of the week. To fill in the gap, here's the penultimate part of my Griffish Isles report: the obligatory Merch Haul photo!

For scale, the large prints at the top are A4
If you click on the picture to see it at a larger size, you'll also notice that I've annotated the photo. From that guide, here's who created the works shown. An asterisk after a work indicates that it's an original.

1 & 2: prints by JowyBean
3 & 6: prints by GreenFly
4: canvas by JowyBean*
5: con poster by Ponebooth (writing: Lee Tockar* :P )
7: print by Featherpaw
8: con T-shirt by StormBlaze
9: ACEO by Sparklepaws*
10: coaster by Torben Goldmund, art by Setharu
11: conbook, cover by StormBlaze
12: marker pen pic by StormBlaze*

Nearly done with GI 2019! My Final Thoughts post will probably go up on Friday, assuming I have the time to write it by then.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Frenemies"

Here we go again, everyone! "Frenemies" was quite a break with the usual run of My Little Pony episodes, so let's get straight on and see how the text-based reviewers saw it. Just in case you haven't realised, or had forgotten, you can click the reviewer's name and the link will take you straight to their review of this episode. Well, unless I've stuffed it up, which with me is always a distinct possibility. I absolutely do want to be told if I've made a hash of a link or something!

The reviewers were almost uniformly positive about this episode, something that doesn't happen very often! (Complete unanimity is even rarer: the last time I didn't have anyone recording a "mixed" or below was for "What Lies Beneath".) There was one exception: The Railfan Brony detested it. Otherwise, the comedy and the song especially got rave reviews (except from Present Perfect in the latter case) and most people found "Frenemies" a fun change from the norm.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "a breath of fresh air [...] A very strong song [...] a very well written and interesting episode")
Note: most of the rest of Cuddlepug's review is distinctly NSFW.

Dark Qiviut – extremely positive ("Fantastic humor, a lot of snappy dialogue [...] developed [the villains] far beyond my imagination [...] one of Vogel's finest episodes and a masterclass of villainy craft."])

DrakeyC – generally very positive ("I love how dysfunctional the villains are [...] Oh this [song] is glorious [...] a fantastic episode [...] The only weakness of the episode is Cozy Glow in this [second] part [...] a great episode for comedy and character.")

Dramamaster829 – positive ("a slight nitpick for me is that these three didn’t even hide the bell that far (Practically inside his own lair) and somehow Grogar is buying their story [and Rusty Bucket is] pretty much a throwaway character [but there's a] good villain song [...] fun to watch from start to finish [...] sinister, yet comically hilarious, villains")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "Didn't expect Tirek to join in, but [the villain song] was incredible nonetheless [...] The sequence with Tirek taking Chrysalis' magic and then willfully giving it back was an interesting stepping stone to what may come [...] Fantastic episode!")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("a great song, sung by the villains [...] Chrysalis was also spectacular trying to reach the mountain [...] I was left totally surprised that they all still refused to be friends")

Louder Yay – extremely positive (rated 5/5; "There aren't many episodes that have given me as much sheer entertainment as this one [...] my favourite song since "Road to Friendship" [...] glorious – sheer pleasure pretty much from start to finish.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – extremely positive ("one of the show's freshest in years [...] stellar writing [...] the real treat here is the way that Tirek, Chrysalis and Cozy Glow play off of one another [...] one of the show's best songs in quite some time [...] the characterisation of Grogar hasn't yet manifested beyond "menacing strategist" [but the episode was] sheer pleasure for every second of its runtime")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 10/10; "what last season's "The Mean Six" should've been [...] a much more entertaining experience overall and definitely deserves a 10")

Present Perfect – positive ("it’s different. It’s interesting [...] While not amazing, this was definitely fun [...] Wasn’t awed by the song, but otherwise, watching these three try and get along for a little while was highly amusing, and it feels like a solid, middle-of-the-road kind of episode.)

The Railfan Brony – spectacularly negative (rated Atrocious; "The moment I heard about this episode's premise, I felt nothing but dread hearing about it. And watching it for real affirmed my initial fears. [...] sluggishly paced [...] a boring, over-hyped slog-fest.")

TheDragonWarlock – very positive (rated 9.5/10; "The episode's concept sounds predictable and it does end up being so, but the way Frenemies handles it is done in a very fun way that's a breath of fresh air [...] one of the best songs the show has put out in a long time [...] an instant classic episode [though] I'm disappointed there's no character development for Cozy and how she came to be.")

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 250: Spotlight on... er... Three Hundred and Fifty

"But Logan!" I hear you object. "This isn't—" Yes. I know. The problem was that I couldn't find a 250-themed fic that I actually wanted to read, or that wasn't a sequel to something else. So this was the next best thing! Call it a statement of intent. Well, if you want. You can call it a turnip for all I care. As for what I'll do if and when Ponyfic Roundup itself reaches a 350th edition... well, that's future Logan's problem.

Read it Later story count: 255 (-1)

Three Hundred and Fifty by Void Chicken
Twilight and Sweetie Belle
Sci-Fi/Slice of Life; 48k words; Dec 2012–Mar 2013; Everyone
The future has everything that any pony could ever want. Twilight Sparkle wants to go home.
The setup for this fic is pretty grim: Sweetie Belle is diagnosed with a terminal heart valve condition. Desperate, Twilight throws herself into researching a time machine – and succeeds just in time to take Sweetie with her 350 years into the future. It soon becomes clear that they'll be in this strange new Equestria for a long time. Sweetie gradually finds new friends, not to mention being adopted by Twilight. All does not seem well between Celestia and Luna, though... I enjoyed this, since plenty happens aside from the overarching plot. We get to know a few characters, see something of the scientific advances (maglev trains... magical levitation!) and eventually discover a few old friends. There's also some emotional pull and a few twists I didn't see coming. I felt Sweetie was a little too level-headed on occasion, and that one character was dealt a very tough hand. Still, a high three as a good read, with the little bonus of the author's regular chatty chapter endnotes! ★★★

More detail on this story, including lots of spoilers, past the cut.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Griffish Isles, Saturday: A Tale of Two Venues

Marvel at the stunning architectural flair of my hotel
I'd set my alarm for six o'clock on Griffish Isles Saturday, and I was pleased when I woke up a few minutes before it went off. I was somewhat less pleased when I dozed off again... the next time I looked at my watch, it was 6:46! I'd wanted to be out of the hotel by seven at the latest, but this wasn't going to happen now. Thank Celestia I'd packed up the previous night. One quick shower later, without even tasting the complimentary coffee, I was checking out.

It was still only around 7:12 when I left the hotel, and happily it was a sunny morning, the weather much nicer than it had been on Friday. Irritatingly, I just missed a tram, but that gave me time to work out the ticket machine and buy a tram-and-bus one in case I needed buses later on. (I didn't.) When the next tram appeared, I was off into Manchester, marvelling at the area's weird combination of mighty skyscrapers and near-derelict plots.

Fooooooooood!
Once I was back in the other city (meaning Manchester; Salford is a city too!) I headed for the Paramount, an early-opening Wetherspoons in a former cinema. It was fairly empty and quite relaxing. Breakfast is the most important meal of con days, so I pigged out on the large fry-up and a couple of mugs of cappuccino. Then it was back on the tram (past the Bridgewater Hall and Manchester Central again) to Piccadilly, from where I'd be walking to the con venue.

Ardwick has a slightly dodgy reputation, but I didn't have any problems on the short walk from the station. Okay, it may be different after dark; I don't know. I arrived outside the venue a little after 9am – nearly an hour before the scheduled start of the con, but at UK PonyCon this is necessary if you don't want a long wait! At this smaller event, it... wasn't. There were about five of us for a while, until some of Team Custard emerged from the house they were sharing nearby.

The St Thomas Centre. A former church, as you'd doubtless guessed
More past the cut!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Episode review: S9E08: "Frenemies"

So, does this count as an on-screen death? :P
When I last looked, the comments count for my "She's All Yak" review (including my responses) was into the mid-30s. Whatever people thought of it, it's certainly got them talking! This week, we had the return of Mike "Michael" Vogel to writing duties. I was very happy indeed when I discovered he was going to be writing this episode. Why? Well, take a look at his solo credits for this show:

"A Hearth's Warming Tail"
"Spice Up Your Life"
"Every Little Thing She Does"
"The Mean 6"
"What Lies Beneath"
"Best Gift Ever"

Other than "Spice Up Your Life", which I only mildly like, I love the rest of that half-dozen. Would "Frenemies" be worthy of this exalted company?

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Griffish Isles 2019, Friday: The Twibrella Saga

Here's the first part of my con report for Griffish Isles 2019. There'll be four of these: Friday, Saturday, Merch Haul and Final Thoughts.

The Friendship Express!
This would be the first convention I'd attended that wasn't UK PonyCon for almost five years – the last time was BUCK 2014. In fact, that had been the last time I'd been in Manchester at all, other than passing through on the train! For personal reasons unconnected to MLP I knew I'd have to come home at teatime on Saturday, so I was hoping Griffish Isles (hereafter simply "GI") would be worth the effort. I'll spare you the suspense: it was.

I started off in style, travelling the first few miles by steam train! I'd always wanted to head for a Pony convention like this, but I'd never quite managed it: UK PonyCon takes place after the local heritage railway's seven-day timetable has ended, while for BUCK I just had too much luggage. I had a tight connection at the other end, so I was relieved when the train arrived dead on time. Fluttershy certainly enjoyed the view of the animals in the local Safari Park.

Fluttershy travels in comfort

The weather I would arrive to in Manchester was forecast to be wet, so I'd bought a cheap purple umbrella – inevitably dubbed the "Twibrella". I managed to leave this at the station. Oh well, I thought, I can easily pick one up in Manchester. Silly me. There isn't a lot to report about the rest of my (non-steam!) train trip, though I did remember to watch an appropriate FiM episode on my phone: "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone". I quite enjoyed it, and it helped pass the time.

My train reached Manchester Piccadilly station in the midst of a torrential downpour, but I had a nice surprise when I got off – unbeknownst to either of us, I'd been sharing my train with Griffin. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to join him for a coffee, but we did at least chat briefly. I splashed through the puddles to get to the Arndale shopping centre. Considering it was rebuilt only 20 years ago (after the 1996 IRA bombing) the place is horribly designed, with a very confusing interior layout.

You can see why I call them Derpy Trams!
Still, I eventually found Poundland and bought Twibrella 2. Then it was back on the tram for the 15-minute ride to Salford Quays, the nearest tram stop to my hotel. On the way we passed both the Bridgewater Hall (venue for BUCK 2013) and Manchester Central (venue for BUCK 2014), which made me enormously nostalgic. I checked into the Travelodge, which was... well, much like any other budget hotel. Basic but serviceable. At least I was on the fifth floor, avoiding the worst of the road noise.

There wasn't much unpacking to do for a one-night stay. Then I found my plushies (Fluttershy and Octavia) and headed straight back to the tram stop. I wasn't expecting much food at the pre-meet pub, so I thought I'd have a snack beforehand. I had an hour or so spare, so I went to Costa – surprisingly uncrowded for 5pm on a Friday, maybe because it was Ramadan – and had a relaxing cappuccino and the requisite muffin (lemon). Sadly I didn't see any other obvious GI people around.

Scootaloo enjoys the view from my fifth-floor hotel window
Then it was time to head for The Waldorf, handily located near Piccadilly station. The GI people had booked us a function room upstairs, but quite a few of us got there early so had to wait outside for a while. Since the rain held off, this wasn't a hardship and allowed me to catch up with friends and have a good chat. HypnoHooves (the con chairman for GI) was there and kept us pretty well informed, and the mood was pleasant. PrinceWhateverer was also there, though I don't remember seeing him.

In we went at 6:30pm. The function room was fine: a little crowded, but not a total squash. It was noisy inside, but again not unbearably so. Griffin kindly bought me a cider (the beer from Prancing Pony brewery had gone off!) and some of us in Team Custard (yes, I'm responsible for that name) managed to grab a table. Everyone seemed in pretty good spirits, as you'd expect. There was even a free buffet laid on by GI, though with our numbers that meant about two sandwiches each.

The Waldorf (centre)
(pic © Gerald England; cc by-sa 2.0)
After a while, there was a call for quiet, so we knew an announcement was coming. I think most of us thought it would just be along the lines of "Welcome to GI and have a good time", but in fact it was something much better than that. Despite severe jetlag, we were getting an early appearance by none other than con Guest of Honour Lee Tockar! This was his first time in the UK, other than when passing through airports, so he wanted a) to have a good time and b) to listen to our accents!

I didn't take photos inside the pub, but some fun things did happen. I avoided the Cards Against Humanity games (I hate CAH, ponyfied or not) but I was amused to watch the darts – with the dartboard covered by someone's sketch of Chancellor Neighsay. It was also interesting to have Torben Goldmund at the table for a while; he gave us quite an eye-opening insight into the enormous amount of work necessary to be a full-time pro fandom artist.

Twibrella 2!
It was very nice, as it always is when you return to a con, to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. Still, it was loud, and I was tired and needed at least a few hours' sleep before convention day proper on the morrow. So I bade my farewells at about ten and headed back to Piccadilly to catch the tram back. I picked up a sausage roll and some chocolate from the Co-op next to the station to tide me through until breakfast. Not the healthiest of snacks perhaps, but I wasn't going to worry too much right then.

Back at the Travelodge, although I was very tired I forced myself to get everything in order so that I could check out quickly the following morning. As things turned out, it was a good job I did. You'll see why in the next report. The road noise was constant, but I find this easier than on-off traffic and it wasn't that loud so I didn't have too much trouble getting to sleep. Things had started off pretty well, but it was Saturday that was going to be the really important one. More on that next time!

Friday, 17 May 2019

Text Review Roundup: "She's All Yak"

Slightly late today, for which apologies, but here's Text Review Roundup for the latest episode. As I've already mentioned, I will be sticking to the US Discovery Family schedule for these, and not taking any notice of the early Italian releases. Since I'm not at a convention this weekend (boo!) I should be able to get back on to my usual timetable next week. On the plus side, Dark Qiviut is back! Yay!

The reviewers were all over the place this time. Broadly speaking, if you disliked this, you probably really disliked it – there wasn't a "slightly negative" to be seen. Actually, I was probably the closest to that! Several reviewers really enjoyed it, though there wasn't total agreement on what the moral actually was. Also, yaks are still base breakers. I wonder how this episode will age?

Cuddlepug – positive (graded A-; "a heartfelt and sweet episode, and one that shows that chivalry isn't dead ")
Note: most of the rest of Cuddlepug's review is distinctly NSFW.

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("it’s a sneaky great one [...] a whole lot of really good comedy [...] The primary lesson from She's All Yak is not to feel like you have to erase your own identity to belong[, which is] not the same [as simply "be yourself"])

DrakeyC – very negative ("The yaks are not funny. Yaks acting like yaks is not funny. Yona acting like a yak is not funny. Stop trying to make yaks happen, they're not gonna happen.")

Dramamaster829 – fairly positive ("while the plot formula is very familiar to the fans (Especially if they’ve seen ‘My Fair Lady’) and could’ve used a more thorough conflict, to me I still consider this a fun episode")

JDPrime22 – fairly positive (rated 7/10; "All the wacky antics can get a little old, but that single moment where Sandbar meets Yona in their little clubhouse was just perfection.")

Lightening McQueen – very positive ("It was really good! [...] The story just sounds so heartwarming [...] Sandbar even did so well to comfort Yona after she felt humiliated")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated "a high" 2/5; "Not up to the standard of Hohlfeld's other two eps, thanks largely to the unoriginal plot and moral, but fairly watchable all the same [...] But you really do need to like Yona.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – very negative ("Honestly, in the 33 episodes I've been following the show, plus the various specials and shorts, there hasn't been an episode that appealed to me less then this.")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 9/10; "despite having a story and moral that we've seen numerous times before, 'She's All Yak' was just the rebound that Season 9 of My Little Pony needed in order to get back on track again...just like Yona, it proves that being yourself can truly help you to go far no matter how popular you are.")

Present Perfect – very negative ("there was so much blushing in this episode, I could cover a football field in angry puke [The students] aren’t used well, the story is cliched, and it’s based on a terrible, stupid, upsetting idea.")

The Railfan Brony – fairly positive (rated Good; "a nice, charming little episode, but the regurgitated storyline and overused moral bring it down for me. And yet the character moments and development just barely manage to salvage the whole thing.")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (rated 7.5/10; "[The song is only average and the] plot is predictable as they come, but the episode still delivers some fun [and] gives some character development for Yona and Sandbar [and] some shipping fuel")

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Oh look, early releases again...

It appears that the Italian channel Cartoonito is showing several episodes over the next week – possibly as many as six, which would take them right up to the mid-season hiatus – so we're back in familiar territory! As far as I can tell, these will only have an Italian-language audio track and not a secondary English one. In any case, I will be avoiding them as much as I can and sticking to the Discovery Family schedule. Please do not post spoilers (including in comments) if you choose to watch the Italian releases! Thank you.

Text Review Roundup for "She's All Yak" will be along tomorrow, then the first part of my Griffish Isles report at the weekend.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Episode review: S9E07: "She's All Yak"

That shooting star was intriguing... but how significant will it prove?
Okay, time for me to get back to Friendship is Magic reviewing. The latest episode was written by Brian Hohlfeld, which made me optimistic. His two previous efforts, "Surf and/or Turf" and "The Hearth's Warming Club" were among my favourite episodes from S8. He'd handled the students pretty well in the latter, so I was hoping for something great with another Young Six episode, this time majoring on Yona. And what we got was...

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Back from Griffish Isles

You know, I did occasionally wonder over the past few weeks whether travelling to Manchester for a one-day con – and only part of one at that, given I had to miss the evening session – was going to be worth it.

It was.

Write-up coming later on this week, I hope.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Sounds of 2012 and how it will work

If you followed me all the way through my "Sounds of 2011" series, which recapped Everfree Radio's Top 100 brony songs from that year, you'll know there were a few teething problems. Happily, things settled down after a while, and I now have a better idea of how I want to handle the 2012 edition. When will that appear? Right now, I'm not sure – but I'm not planning on waiting until Friendship is Magic has ended.

One thing I've been thinking about is how to handle songs that are no longer online, or are only around in unofficial uploads, perhaps because their creator deleted them. I've come up with four rules which will form the basis of my decision as to whether any particular track is featured or skipped:

Rule 1: Any song that is officially available from the artist, whether on their YouTube or another source such as Bandcamp, will definitely be featured. This is the easy one!

Rule 2: If there is good evidence that the creator is fine with third-party hosting, the song will be a go. Alex S, who has an official archive channel, is an example of this. (Another is WoodLore, but he's not a factor for 2012.)

Rule 3: Songs which are very well known will be featured even if the only way you can get them is through an unofficial source.

Rule 4: Unlisted songs will generally be featured. I reason that artists who've left songs accessible, even if unlisted, aren't likely to mind specialist fandom publications linking to them.

I think that provides a reasonable balance. To expand on Rule 3: I really do mean very well known. As a 2011 example, imagine if WoodenToaster had nuked "Rainbow Factory" from his account. It would have been silly to have pretended that didn't exist. But this won't apply to smaller-scale artists who had a minor hit years ago that everyone's now forgotten about. Those songs will be skipped.

As this post goes up, all being well I'll be at a convention. When I get back, you can expect the review of S9E07 by midweek or so. Remember, no Ponyfic Roundup this week, so PR 250 will appear on the 22nd.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Common Ground"

It's time to return to the buckball rink pitch court field! As it happens, Griffish Isles will be having a buckball session, though as I'll have to go home before it I'll have to rely on others to tell me how it worked. For the moment, let's have a look at how "Common Ground" was received by the text-based reviewer contingent.

I've dropped StarGiantProductions from TRR, I'm afraid, since it's fairly pointless when someone gives an episode 100/100 and still says it's not as good as some others! And that's what SGP did this week. Instead, there's a new name to me in Dramamaster829, who seems to write pretty detailed reviews (on Fimfiction) that are quite copiously illustrated.

The reviewers' opinion of this episode was mostly positive. DrakeyC and (unusually) MLEEP were the only ones who came down negative overall. Even though I was quite positive, I was still below the midway point. I'll need to watch this again sometime to see what I may have missed that so many others saw.

Cuddlepug – fairly positive (graded B; "“Common Ground” is something a bit different and unexpected, which is the best fans can hope for from the final season of Friendship is Magic.")

DrakeyC – negative ("Frankly this whole episode bored me. It isn't funny [and] the plot is stock cliche movie tropes we've had since the 80s")

Dramamaster829 – positive ("a very simplistic story with a sweet, touching moral families can relate to [...] notably cute [...] the special guests clearly had fun")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "a fairly mature lesson for kids [...] MLP tackling divorces is pretty unique [...] Fantastic episode.")

Lightening McQueen – very positive ("It was great! [...] great to see Wind finally get along with Quibble [...] nice cameos [and references]")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 3/5; "a solid episode [...] plays things a little safer than it might have done [but] a good moral, and the action rarely flagged too much")

Mike Cartoon Pony – positive with reservations ("[Quibble's epic fails are] equal parts funny and cringey [...] Wind captured perfectly the feelings of a kid going through a tough time [...the Oswalt family's performances are lovely, but] there's just no getting around that segments of it are either cringe, boring or repetitive")

MLEEP Reviews – rather negative (rated 6.5/10; "continuity with Season 6 [...] I loved the moral [but the episode] falls victim to two of the most cliched plots in the entirety of film and television")

Present Perfect – very positive ("this did what so many episodes fail to do: humanize the characters [...] pretty much the only [episode] that treats a romantic relationship anywhere close to good")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "the best episode since What Lies Beneath [...] the right mix of comedy, charm and heartwarming moments, and a good moral to boot")

TheDragonWarlock – broadly positive (rated 8.5/10; "The plot overall is pretty predictable [and] Seeing Quibble constantly screw up over the most simple things is just uncomfortable [but t]he writing is great, the characters are well written, and it handles a serious matter in a great way.")

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 249

Read it Later story count: 256 (-2)

Only a couple of days left now until I head off to Manchester for Griffish Isles. I may or may not get any ponyfic reading done on the train or at my hotel. Given my restricted time in the city, I probably won't have much opportunity for downtime until I get home again on Saturday evening. Back to the subject of reviews, and I have four fics to cover this time around. They are:

So Being What We Sow When We Sew by The Descendant
Red/Yellow by The Cloptimist
Alternity by master18
Fabricated Existence by Unknown Ficwriter

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

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Griffish Isles schedule released!

Yesterday, the one-day Griffish Isles convention – which takes place this coming Saturday in Ardwick, Manchester – published its schedule. As many of you will know, I'm going to this con, so I was more than interested to see what would be happening on the day! As in 2018, the events will be split between two venues. The daytime events at St Thomas Centre will run from 10am to 5pm, while the evening events at the nearby Powerleague venue will run from 7pm to midnight.

That represents a slight change to last year's schedule structure, and it's one that has a significant effect on me personally, but I'll get to that later. First, I'll say that the events list looks about what I'd expect for a small convention. I'm definitely interested in "MLP and the Meaning of Life", and of course Lee Tockar's panel. Not sure about "History of MLP", so I may play that by ear. The same goes with Ali Milner's voice call, though Ember's VA is certainly a nice addition.

Talking of playing things by ear, I'm very happy to see karaoke sessions listed! I may not have the opportunity to sing myself if other things clash or the room is oversubscribed, but I've had the chance at other cons so I don't mind too much. I'm not all that excited by a plushie-making class, and I'm not an artist, so I'll probably skip the creative sessions. I don't play the CCG either. The vendor hall is a must, though: I know several creators I admire will be there. And "Pony Museum"? Intriguing!

As always at conventions, finding time to eat without missing too much will be an art form in itself. I'll make sure I have a good breakfast, though it remains to be seen whether I can find any fellow attendees to eat with. That might be too much of a long shot this time. Lunch may have to be a sandwich run to the nearby petrol station, since there's not a lot of space in the timetable! Evening food will be easier, given the gap between daytime and evening sessions.

In all honesty, I find the two-hour gap between daytime and evening sessions rather puzzling. While I appreciate that people will want time to have some food without rushing too much, do we really need that much time? The two venues are five minutes' walk apart. I can only guess that perhaps the organisers are assuming we'll go all the way back into the city centre for refreshment. The Ardwick area is a bit of a food desert, after all, with very few outlets within walking distance.

Which leads me to my one big personal disappointment. For non-fandom reasons I'll have to catch a train from Piccadilly at a little after 8pm, so there really isn't much point in my going to the evening venue. Last year, at the same venue, its doors opened two hours earlier at 5pm, and I was expecting something similar this time. If that had been the case I'd certainly have gone. The rejigged schedule also means I'll miss my beloved pub quiz – I could (just) have done it on the 2018 timetable.

So my Griffish Isles experience looks like consisting of Friday's pre-meet and the daytime portion of the convention itself. I may be back home in Worcestershire before BassPon3 has even begun his set. Not ideal, but circumstances have somewhat conspired against me. Despite this, I certainly don't regret committing to this con. I want to support it and I'm still intrigued to see what it's like. I will, of course, be reporting on my trip at some point next week!

Monday, 6 May 2019

Episode review: S9E06: "Common Ground"

Lyra and Bon Bon even go to see buckball together!
It's a Bank Holiday Monday here today, but never let it be said that Logan will let other stuff get in the way of his episode reviews! (Except, er, next week. But still.) This episode was a special occasion, in that Patton Oswalt reprised his role as Quibble Pants, with his real-life wife and daughter playing similar roles in the episode. This one was written by Josh Haber, so I was expecting an entertaining 22 minutes. What I got was...

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Louder Yay schedule changes in the next couple of weeks

Since I'll be at the Griffish Isles convention next weekend, there'll be some small changes to my usual timetable on this blog. The big one is that I'll be doing as I usually do when this happens, and skipping a week of Ponyfic Roundup. PR 249 will appear as normal this coming Wednesday (8th) but there will not be an edition on the 15th. Ponyfic Roundup 250 (yikes!) will be posted on 22nd May.

The other regulars will just be shifted back slightly. My review of FiM S9E07 will be up on the Tuesday or Wednesday after it airs, and Text Review Roundup will probably appear on the Friday. At any rate, my aim is to have my coverage of that episode done before E08 turns up. I'm not sure when my Griffish Isles report will come out, but I'll try to get it done reasonably quickly.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Text Review Roundup: "The Point of No Return"

Back to ordinary episodes this week, although this one was notable for being G. M. Berrow's final outing as a Friendship is Magic writer. One significant change to my roundup: for now at least, Dark Qiviut has been removed, as I don't feel there's much to go on with just a grade and no explanatory text. This is Text Review Roundup, after all! Happily, there's a newcomer in StarGiantProductions to balance this out.

The reviewers were widely spread this time around, although the average feeling was that it was a pleasant time-passer but not much more; this was where I ended up. Several were less forgiving, with one giving it their vote as the worst episode of the entire series, though that was an outlier. One little point of note is that many reviewers didn't mention Derpy's speaking appearance. It's not quite the novelty now it once was.

Cuddlepug – rather negative (graded C+; "a confusing moral and the episode doesn't seem to know what point it's trying to make.")

DrakeyC – positive ("overall very funny, lots of cute and funny faces from Twilight and a lot of good jokes [though] the story seemed a bit scattershot")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "Twilight's reactions and anxiety were priceless, Spike is just so done with everything, and we get the return of Moondancer! I also loved the message")

Lightening McQueen – broadly positive ("Dusty Pages was [...] a good character, and the moral was pretty good [but] a few of the scenes were kind of predictable [and] the montages seemed overused")

Louder Yay – mildly positive (rated 3/5; "there wasn't really enough to fill 22 minutes [but] this was the sort of episode I can happily watch in the quieter parts of mid-season")

Mike Cartoon Pony – fairly positive ("a G. M. Berrow episode through and through [...] the episode is padded [but what] makes it largely enjoyable, is the low-key moments along the way.")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 8.5/10; "not quite the full-on recycled rehash of Season 5's "Amending Fences" like I thought it would be, [but] still a great episode in showing how something that isn't perfect can still be something truly worthwhile")

Present Perfect – negative ("I'm just so tired of these episodes where something that never mattered before and never will matter again overtakes a pony's life.")

The Railfan Brony – spectacularly negative (rated Atrocious; "the absolute nadir of the writers ripping off older episodes when they don't have any ideas [...] officially earned the title of the worst ever episode in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.")

StarGiantProductions – mildly positive (rated 85/100; "This episode was nice. But nothing too special. It's more or less a filler episode.")

TheDragonWarlock – rather negative (rated 6.5/10; "feels like a sluggish bore [...] Stick to Amending Fences")

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 248

A quick signal boost first, as The Cloptimist made some interesting points on my "Simple fun and warmth and magic" post from a few days ago, and I'd hate for them to get entirely buried. Now, on to some ponyfic.

Read it Later story count: 258 (+2)

Hmm, the size of my RiL is starting to creep upwards again, I see. My long-term goal remains to get it down to around 100 and then hold it roughly steady. I can hardly object to people writing fics I'm interested in reading, though! Just the three stories reviewed today, although there's some good variety here. They are:

Big Horseshoes by Bad_Seed_72
Jailhouse Rock by Impossible Numbers
Happy Birthday, Dear Twilight by Pascoite

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Episode review: S9E05: "The Point of No Return"

"You realise you've just brought me a thousand timeshare ads?"
Another milestone in the list of "finals" we'll be facing as Season 9 of Friendship is Magic wears on: last Saturday's episode was G. M. Berrow's last. She's been writing for the show since S5's "The One Pinkie Pie Knows", and her first MLP chapter book (also a Twilight one!) appeared way back in early 2013. Her episodes have generally been middling for me, but I was hopeful "The Point of No Return" would let her go out on a high? Did it? After the break we'll find out!

Monday, 29 April 2019

What if G5 isn't coming next after all?

My review of "The Point of No Return" will be up tomorrow. After a busy weekend I was simply too tired to write it up last night. Nothing dramatic!

We all know that Friendship is Magic will come to an end after Season 9. There may be a little Equestria Girls content thereafter, but I suspect most of us, including me, expect that this won't amount to more than a few shorts and conceivably a special or two. Most of us, including me, are also expecting that the 2021 film already announced by Hasbro will be some sort of an introduction to the new generation, at least an informal prequel to the subsequent G5 TV series.

But... what if it isn't? What if we do stick with G4 for longer? I don't, of course, mean FiM. That's not getting a reprieve. But a very interesting point was made the other day by The Feral Brony. He reminded us all that generation numbers have changed with toy lines, not with shows. The most obvious example of this is My Little Pony Tales. Very different from the earlier My Little Pony 'N Friends cartoon, so much so that many people refer to Tales as G2. But it's not. Tales is still G1.

Could it happen? Could we see history repeating itself with an equivalent of Tales, using a completely different setting but still producing toys that are recognisably of the same generation? After all, the G4 toy lines have made a lot of money for Hasbro. When they specify the designs of pony figures for the next film and then the series, might they decide to keep their look very close to what we have now and keep using the G4 designation? It's an intriguing thought.

There is another possibility, though. G4 is the first time that a generation of My Little Pony has had a cartoon at its core. Previously, the toys were what people talked about most, with the TV series most definitely secondary. No longer; since 2010, while Hasbro still want to sell plastic ponies, they need the exposure the cartoon gives. So I just wonder whether Hasbro might therefore dump their previous convention and call the new series G5 anyway, even if the toys continue to look similar.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Simple fun and warmth and magic

People watch Game of Thrones because Winter is Coming.

And they watch My Little Pony... because tomorrow spring is here.
—Lets Do This

The other day, Friendmaker by Lets Do This was inducted into the Royal Canterlot Library. I was very pleased by this for several reasons. First of all, I think it's a really good story: I found it "very satisfying" when I reviewed it for Ponyfic Roundup 236. Secondly, Lets Do This is a relatively new author, having signed up for Fimfiction only in June 2018. I'm always pleased to see newcomers writing good stories.

And third... well, see that quote at the top of this post? That's from Lets Do This's RCL interview. I saw it and thought, "Yes." It's a perfect summation of why so many of us enjoy both MLP and what might be called more conventionally "grown-up" shows. I quoted it on Twitter (with LDT credited, of course) and it seemed to get plenty of interest, too. Still, much as I love those two lines, seeing them got me thinking a bit.

If you read this blog much, you may have noticed that from time to time I say that a fic or an episode or whatever felt like something from the old days. Occasionally that's a criticism, for example when a story is full of Lavender Unicorn Syndrome. More often, though, it's intended as a compliment. I mean that the piece in question harks back to simpler times in MLP, both show and fandom.

Yes, sure, the fandom began on 4chan, with all that that implies. But in fanfic especially, something I frequently notice about early works is that they're written with a very simple object: innocent fun. Free of the need to make stories complex and intense, there's a sense of playfulness about many of them that I'm not sure is quite as common today as I'd really like it to be, even if the best modern fics are often clever in different ways.

One small example is in the way writers use horse puns. I don't mean the obvious stuff like Neighagara Falls or Stalliongrad. I mean fun passing touches, such as characters using "Hay there!" instead of "Hey there!" or "foalish" instead of "foolish". When I see usages like that nowadays, they really feel like throwbacks, because they're no longer all that common. I may be out on a limb here, but I'd like to see that kind of thing return.

There are other ways, naturally. Lucky Dreams, an author I feel should have gained considerably more recognition, has 17 published stories, every one E-rated and some actually aimed at kids (itself a rarity in ponyfic). These tales are clever, but also warm and, well, magical. Of course that's not suitable for every kind of story, but I'd like to see some more in that vein without having to go back to 2012 to find them.

Perhaps it's just me. But I must say I'm glad of Lets Do This's reminder that not everything connected with Pony has to be deep and "grown-up" and deal with Great Issues to succeed. A story which leaves the reader feeling happy and warm inside can be just as valuable. It's in tune with Equestrian values, after all: as the Mane Six delighted in reminding Sombra the other week, in the ponies' world "friendship is magic!"

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Sparkle's Seven"

Time for another look at how the text-based reviewers saw the most recent episode of Friendship is Magic. In this case, of course, anticipation was high as it was episode 200. As we won't reach E250 before the show runs out of road, this will be the last major numeric milestone the show will reach. Not that that means very much, so let's move on.

This one got a generally very positive reception. The one big exception, The Railfan Brony, was a lone voice among this bunch. (I did see a few other dissenting voices in EqD comments, but they were very much in the minority.) Despite TRB's dislike, "Sparkle's Seven" was overall the most favourably reviewed episode since "What Lies Beneath".

I ended up being down at the lower end of the scale in terms of how much I liked it, despite the fact that I enjoyed it a lot! I said that it only missed a full five-star rating by a small amount, but my few gripes nevertheless made me pickier than a number of reviewers.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A-; "surprises and delights in unexpected ways [...] if you're a fan of [...] the friends going on adventures and working together, this is a grand example")

Dark Qiviut – extremely positive (rated A+). NB: no actual review that I could find this time; the grade is from an all-time all-series ranking.

DrakeyC – very positive ("Fantastic episode, perfect way to celebrate 200 episodes and the incredible voice actresses who made it possible.")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "Oh, boy, did this episode deliver! [...] the ending to the episode is what truly makes it shine.")

Lightening McQueen – very positive ("It was really great! [...] Applejack's fantasy of her alter ego Apple Chord was sweet")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "I was delighted by how [the Spike plotline] was resolved [...] I'm not sure [Pinkie's fantasy] entirely worked [but] pacing of the episode seemed very good [...] excellent dialogue [...] a very solid, very entertaining story and a fitting E200.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – very positive ("easily one of the best post-Season-5 episodes and one of the few that can really stand up with that earlier era of Pony")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "an emotional yet funny celebration of everything that has made 'Friendship Is Magic' the cultural phenomenon that it is today")

Present Perfect – very positive ("for an episode that written by committee, this was a lot of fun. Immensely entertaining, with no jokes that fell flat or brought out the cringe.")

The Railfan Brony – extremely negative (rated Terrible; "a boring, slow-paced slog [...] possibly the most stupid way to celebrate 199 200 episodes!")

TheDragonWarlock – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "I can't stress this enough; I love this episode. It's well written, has great character development, good comedy, and it has Spike at his absolute best yet.")