Friday, 31 January 2014

Another episode leaked

It happened with "Castle Mane-ia" and now it's happened with "Pinkie Pride". I'm really disappointed in whoever was responsible for this latest leak. My Little Pony episodes are events that give a special feel to the Saturdays they're on, and this inevitably dilutes them. Although I know where to find the episode, I won't be giving any clues and I won't be watching it until the proper day. I'd be really happy if you did the same.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Please help Michael Morones

Those of you who follow Equestria Daily or UK of Equestria may have already seen this story, but I wanted to put it up here as well. Michael Morones is an 11-year-old boy from the United States. He is currently in hospital with brain damage after attempting to take his own life. The cause was bullying as a result of his enthusiasm for My Little Pony. As Michael is American, medical expenses for his treatment are likely to be very substantial.

As a result, EileMonty has set up a GoFundMe page right here. Even if you're not able to contribute financially, you can do a lot of good by spreading the word. Not spamming, of course, but if you have a site, blog, Twitter etc then a few words would be great. If you'd like to follow Michael's progress, his mother has a Twitter at @MichaelBrony623. We're a community, and Michael is one of our own. Let's keep him in our thoughts.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Episode review: "Three's a Crowd" (S4E11)

Twilight's "Spoiler Alert"
Spoiler alert: the next episode will have ponies in it!
I've been extremely short of time over the last few days, and that's continued into this weekend, so I hope you'll excuse me for writing a somewhat less thoughtful review than usual. Still, it's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and I surely can't ignore that, can I? The latest episode is another collaboration, this time between Admiral Lady Meghan McCarthy and Ed Valentine, who was responsible for the pretty enjoyable "Flight to the Finish". You know the form by now: past the break!

Friday, 24 January 2014


Just a quick post here to say that I haven't forgotten about either the comics sales stats or the top 10 pony tracks of 2013. I just haven't had the time! It's been all I can do to have kept up with the episodes and comics. But fear not, both posts will be along when I'm not so busy.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #1: Pinkie Pie & Applejack

MLP:FF #1, sub cover by Andy Price
Andy Price's sub cover is brilliant. What might have been...
Last month, the My Little Pony Micro-series came to an end with the excellent Luna issue. This month, we see the release of the first in a new series: Friends Forever. From what we saw in the lead-up, this looked like being a team-up comic, an idea which was very favourably received by the fandom. The first issue is a jump into the unknown with writer, artist and colourists (yes, plural) being entirely new to Pony comics. After the break, I'll tell you if it was the smash hit we hoped it would be.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Remember this from December 2012?

This is not a new thing!
I still don't know who was responsible for that post, but I do now know that the final bit was flat-out wrong. "Don't believe everything you see on the internet" has always been true. I suppose it's possible that Derpy was at one point "canned totally", but either the decision was reversed or it was never actually made in the first place. The following tweet is from the VP of development and scripted entertainment for Hasbro Studios. He should know:

Episode review: "Rainbow Falls" (S4E10)

The Ponyville team and supporters
Technically it's a spoiler. But nobody in the entire fandom missed it!
It hardly seems like yesterday that Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began, and here we are moving into double figures! Episode 10 was written by Corey Powell, who debuted with the classic "Sleepless in Ponyville" and went on to write the pretty decent "Just for Sidekicks" later in Season 3. This is her first appearance since then, and given the title we had a fair idea who would be at the centre of attention. After the break, I'll give you lucky people some more of my thoughts.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

On the demise of APM

Looks like Hasbro shut down APM at last. If you don't know what APM is (well, was now) then by all means skip this post. There's an episode review coming up in the next day or two, after all. But I can't write about this subject matter on UK of Equestria, it's too long for Twitter and nobody reads LiveJournal these days, so this is the best place.

My immediate reaction, quite frankly, is one of relief. I said back in August that I had a problem with misogyny in the pony fandom, and sorry guys but APM was guilty of casual misogyny at times. Much the same as I said in August applies to APM. I was decidedly not a fan – even of Gamer Luna, though I had no objection to her; I'm just not as huge a Luna-tic as many.

The idea that if you don't like to see NSFW humour in the fandom, you're somehow "immature" is just plain stupid. I was never one of those who tried to get APM shut down, and as long as it stayed within the law I felt that what it did was its business. But I didn't like its humour, and there's nothing immature about saying so plainly.

As for PinkiePony... does the word "Yamino" mean anything to you? Someone who had an unpopular opinion, stated it openly, and got treated  disgracefully for it? I didn't agree with plenty of what Y said, and I didn't agree of plenty of what PP had to say. But you can't defend the right of APM to make those jokes unless you also defend the right of PP to be vocal.

Okay, I'm done with this subject. Next up will be a review of "Rainbow Falls"!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 15

IDW MLP:FiM comic #15, cover A
I wasn't bowled over by any of the covers this month, so chose the one with Fluttershy!
Time for a comics-related post! As it happens, the December and full-2013 sales figures are out, but a discussion of those will have to wait a little while. For now, just be reassured that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic remained IDW's best seller last month. This month we have issue #15 of the main series to consider. It's written by Heather Nuhfer, who most will remember as the writer of the Nightmare Rarity arc. The interior art is drawn by Amy Mebberson, who's perhaps better known for her covers but did draw the Celestia micro. Past the break we go, everypony!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Book review: Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare (G. M. Berrow)

Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare -- front cover
"I dare Hasbro to provide some different vectors for once"
G. M. Berrow's series of chapter books starring the Mane Six have quickly become a fixture of what you might call the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic expanded universe. The first book, about Twilight, was very good, if slightly butchered for its UK edition. The Pinkie-centric follow-up scored a little lower but was still worthwhile. Now, we have Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare (say that six times fast!) which you can buy from The Book Depository for £3.07. Only Berrow's novelisation of Equestria Girls seemed a little lacklustre. I've been hoping that that was simply because of the iffy source material. After the jump, we'll find out!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Episode review: "Pinkie Apple Pie" (S4E09)

The extended Apple Family
Apples to the Arrr
This week's episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, "Pinkie Apple Pie", introduced us to another new writer: Natasha Levinger. This was the final episode which we'd seen as part of the SDCC animatics clip. That, as I'm sure everyone who saw it will recall, included a song that became a fan favourite very quickly indeed. The big question, of course, was whether the episode that was written around it would be such a success. And for the answer to that, you'll have to follow me past the jump!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The problem with introducing newcomers

Now, here I am talking very specifically about people who have expressed at least some interest in finding out what My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is all about. We all know how annoying bronies can be when they won't take no for an answer, or decide that everywhere is a suitable place to bring out their inner pony. All of us have had something similar done to us by fans of other things, I'm sure. Being pestered about Pony is no better than being pestered about Doctor Who or Breaking Bad or Call of Duty or... well, you get the idea.

With that out of the way: the problem is that many bronies will try to get potential newcomers (PNs from here on in) interested by telling them about the pop culture references, the interaction between show staff and fans, the PG (or above) rated fanworks, etc. In other words, they'll try as hard as possible to avoid the thing that they think will put off PNs: the dreaded girlyness. And when the PNs watch the Season 1 premiere, they'll make sure they talk up the scariness of Nightmare Moon, the manticore and the Shadowbolts and make it seem as though MLP:FiM is some sort of thrillfest.

This is not a good idea. At all. This cartoon is obviously targeted at little girls, and rightly so. We, the bronies, are not the target audience – and we shouldn't ever be. Consider this season: "Power Ponies" felt like fanservice, frankly, and it's no surprise that in my review here, I rated it the weakest episode thus far in S4. Contrast that with "Rarity Takes Manehattan", which I thought was excellent. That episode is essentially a character study of Rarity, a pony whose life revolves around fashion. Yes, she's also a successful businessmare, but her choice of career is absolutely there for the little-girl audience.

Going back to S1, though: if you claim to PNs that the show is full of action and adventure, and back that up with "Dragonshy" (one of my favourite eps, don't get me wrong) then they're going to hit the ground with a bump when the very next story turns out to be "Look Before You Sleep", perhaps the most stereotypically girly episode the show has ever put out and not a classic in any case. It's maybe the biggest speed bump of all for a PN: you know and I know that once they get that far, the quality of the series is about to improve out of sight, but they don't.

The rest of S1 is possibly the most consistently excellent period the show has ever enjoyed, and "Bridle Gossip" is the place the new era starts. The next third-season contains "Winter Wrap Up" and "Art of the Dress", the debut of the CMCs, the clever lesson of "Fall Weather Friends" and the sonic rainboom. If your PNs are ever going to join the herd they will have done by that point. But you have to get them past those first eight episodes first – and you're not going to do that if you're not honest with them about what they're going to see.

It's a cartoon for little girls. The fact that it's absolutely that and very, very good is what makes MLP: FiM so remarkable. That is Lauren Faust's lasting achievement. If you only present half the story, you're doing both her and the show a grave injustice.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell: UK edition disappoints

Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell books
Too Many Twilight Sparkles?
Oh yes: G. M. Berrow's fine storybook is now on British shelves! And above you can see the photo to prove it. From the left: the original US edition published by Little, Brown; the new UK edition published by Orchard; and the six-chapter mini-promo given away with the monthly magazine this, er, month. Before you all rush out and buy the British book, though, there are a few caveats. First there's the price: RRP is £4.99 and even online it will cost £3.74 from The Book Depository, whereas the same website will sell you the US original for £3.06 with free p&p.

The other concern is the editing. Ah, you say, that's just for localisation purposes? Well... no. True, the expected British English spellings are present and correct, and that's certainly nice to see – though I'm a bit undecided about whether Shining Armour is a good idea. There are also a few changes in grammar and punctuation, and just occasionally an edit does improve things. An example is the dropping of the last word from Twilight's irritating "Spit it out, already!", a line I complained about in my review of the US edition.

The real problem is the significant hacking about of some of the book's text. The most instantly obvious change is that words like "everypony" have been ruthlessly purged. This is a shame, and frankly it's a weird choice, given that in the show – including the UK-spec DVDs – these words are used frequently. There are also a few places where words have been simplified: in Chapter 1, Twilight was originally "inducted into" the ranks of royalty; now she's merely "joined" them. Irritating, given my admiration for the way the show doesn't talk down to its young audience.

All that could be excused were it not for the really major editing that's gone on in places, sometimes removing whole chunks of text. The central story is still present and correct, but quite a bit of the incidental colour has gone. True, on some occasions the shorter British edit is actually more concise, but on others it seems cut-down and vaguely unsatisfying. I doubt it would show up so much to a reader who hadn't read the American edition, but it really does become a glaring difference after a while to those who have.

This probably sounds like so much waffle to many of you reading this, so here are a couple of actual examples to illustrate my point, both from a scene in Chapter 2. Here's the first one:
US edition: "Hello, Mr. Cake," Twilight said, trotting up to the cart, which had begun to draw a sizable crowd of hungry ponies hoping to snag one of the fragrant delights. Twilight hadn't seen such a commotion since the last cider sale at Sweet Apple Acres.

UK edition: "Hello, Mr Cake," Twilight said, trotting up to the cart, which had begun to draw a crowd of hungry ponies. Twilight hadn't seen such a commotion since the last apple juice sale at Sweet Apple Acres.
(That's right: any mention of the dreaded cider has been censored!) Just a little further on, we see the same sort of thing again:
US edition: "Plus, the babies love to get out of the shop," Mr. Cake continued, oblivious to his little foals' devious actions. He was too busy dishing out baked goods to the crowd of hungry townponies. "Fresh air sure does them good!"

UK edition: "Plus, the babies love to get out of the shop," Mr Cake continued, too busy to notice his little foals' naughty actions. "Fresh air does them good!"
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea by now. I will give the Orchard edition a point for retaining the fun brony references of the original: "Pegasister-in-law" is still there, as are "True Love and Tolerance" and the cameo by an unnamed Derpy. How much sense any of those will make to little kids in this country who know nothing about My Little Pony beyond the toy ranges, however, is anyone's guess.

In all honesty, it's hard for me to recommend the British edition of this book. I'm sad about that, because I really want to praise companies that support the under-served UK market. But on virtually every comparison, the US book is better: even its standee trading card is bigger. (The British one is called a "pop-out pony" and is devoid of Enterplay branding.) It's also cheaper even on UK-based websites. Berrow deserves her story to sell well... but not in this disappointing British edition. Buy the American one instead.

(I'm not awarding a mark here as this has been largely a comparison, not a standalone review.)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Episode review: "Rarity Takes Manehattan" (S4E08)

Rarity offers a jewel during her song
"But Rarity, you promised me I could eat today..."
Ahoy there, me hearties. Ahem, sorry; I've been reading the IDW comics too much recently. (And so should you, hint hint.) But it's time to discuss the latest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which was eagerly awaited by a sizeable chunk of the fandom. And for why? Because it's a Rarity episode! We haven't really had one of those since "Sweet and Elite" two seasons ago. As its title suggests, "Rarity Takes Manehattan" (written by Dave Polsky) would bring our ponies to a place we saw briefly in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" but otherwise knew only as a distant "big city". After the jump for more!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Episode review: "Bats!" (S4E07)

Applejack during the song
AJ's parents are dead. Batman's parents are dead. Hmm...
Apologies for the lateness of this review, but sadly I was without my PC for the last week owing to my being on holiday! Anyway, let's get this one done quickly, so that we can get back to something like the usual schedule for next time. This week's episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was pithily titled "Bats!", and – contrary to the rather glaring mistake on the captions – was actually written by Merriwether Williams, not Meghan McCarthy. I really hope that error is corrected for future showings of the ep. After the break!