Monday, 20 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Friendship University"

The personal reasons I alluded to last time mean that I wasn't able to post here for a few days, and I'm now falling behind with the show again. As I type, I haven't even seen "The End in Friend", and I'm really not going to start trying to keep up with the Australian/Swedish/French/Martian schedules! So, to the TRR for E16. No Dark Qiviut or ShutterflyEQD any more means a slightly light roster, though of course I'm always looking for any text-based reviewers I've missed!

"Friendship University" was a fairly well received episode. None of the reviewers outright disliked it, although some of them gave it only qualified support. Each reviewer's attitude to Flim and Flam tended to colour their opinion of the episode as a whole. Cuddlepug, who loved it, even came up with a pretty straight review, not something that happens all that often!

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "complex, ambitious and funny [...] The stakes are high – higher than they are in most episodes [...] engaging throughout")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B+; "The episode itself is good, though points off because Twilight’s disguise leaves a lot to be desired while Rarity again steals the show.")

The Dragon Warlock – mixed (graded B+; "I think the brothers have run their course at this point. [though the ep] does have some funny moments, sets up stuff for the season finale, and it does give us a Rarity and Twilight episode.")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 9/10; "Had some great moments in it, especially Twilight's disguise and... Plainity.")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 3/5; "I don't usually love FlimFlam episodes, though I do usually like them. That was the case here.")

Mega Sean 45 – extremely positive ("very clever [...] so using [Twi and Rares] was brillant! [...] a fantastic episode")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Star Swirl [...] plenty of new visual delights [...] plenty of surprises and entertainment")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "plays really well into Star Swirl's character [...] it almost looks as though they're building up to something grand for the finale")

Rainbine – mixed (rated 3/5; "[Rarity] was honestly the best thing about the episode [but it had] pretty poor pacing")

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 3 of 3

This is a scheduled post. For personal reasons, updates may be uneven for a while. If they turn up, then great, but if there's a dry spell at any point, it won't mean I've given up on this blog. Very much not the case!

Here's the final part of this series, in which we discover The Railfan Brony's thoughts on episodes 3 through 10 of S8. (To remind you, "School Daze" was a video review, so doesn't belong here, and from "Molt Down" onwards these are included in regular TRR editions.) For this season, Railfan moved away from numerical marks and to a simple one-word rating. It's actually been rather fun doing this, though it's not something I'd like to do all the time. TRR for "Friendship University" will be along sometime in the next few days.

Railfan had a fairly good time with this section of S8, and at one point three successive episodes earned an Excellent rating. However, things went downhill after that. As you'll know if you've read TRR since then, he's considered some episodes very strong (eg "Molt Down" and "The Hearth's Warming Club"), some on the meh side (eg "Marks for Effort") and some very poor (eg "The Mean Six" and "Yakity-Sax"). Not all of his ratings agree with mine, but why should they? So Railfan, as long as you keep writing these reviews, I'll keep including them in TRR.

803: "The Maud Couple" – positive with reservations (rated Good; "a very strong message [although] the plot is quite thin [...] Had it not been for the theme, it would've gotten a worse rating.")

804: "Fake It 'Til You Make It" – fairly positive (rated Good; "surprisingly good given that Josh Hamilton wrote this [...] the humor was actually quite funny [but] the rest of the Mane Six (barring Rarity of course) felt kind of useless")

805: "Grannies Gone Wild" – very positive (rated Excellent; "did Gillian Berrow pull [this] off? Absolutely [...] funny [...] the whole conflict all felt believable and relatable")

806: "Surf and/or Turf" – very positive (rated Excellent; "I liked Terramar a lot. He is incredibly sympathetic and relatable [...] subtle allegory [...] Seeing Scootaloo swim around as a seapony is just adorably charming [but] the conflict between Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle felt rather shoehorned.")

807: "Horse Play" – mostly very positive (rated Excellent; "Celestia is an absolute delight throughout the entire episode [...] the standout was Fluttershy, no question [...] issues with Twilight and Pinkie's characterization [but] a solid episode")

808: "The Parent Trap" – negative (rated Bad; "boy, does it get frustrating after a while [...] a crapload of wasted potential [Sunburst is] so boring [but Starlight] does what she can to give the episode some weight")

809: "Non-Compete Clause" – very negative (rated Terrible; "the Young Six are really good throughout [but the episode] completely ignores character development that had happened in the past seven seasons [...] the moral comes off as extremely forced, and the ending makes the whole endeavor pointless.")

810: "The Break Up Breakdown" – positive (rated Good; "the characters are actually entertaining, Discord and Spike especially [and the] best character of the episode was [...] Big Macintosh. [However,] the Crusaders' subplot felt useless")

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 214: Grey Sky Morning

Title explanation: Vertical Horizon song

Here in Britland, we're now long past the end of our heatwave and back to standard British weather. As I type at 4pm on Tuesday, it's overcast, breezy and 21 °C. For reasons which have not yet been entirely discovered, August has almost always been the least summery summer month during the last 15 years or so, and 2018 looks set to continue that trend.

Read it Later story count: 319 (-8)

Well, how about that? Five fics to review today, which is not what I was expecting to happen!

Administrative Angel by horizon
Benign Providence by Haysit T Ganaram
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by sunnypack
More Than Muscle by Level Dasher
You Want to Do What Now? by Nyarlathi

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

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Episode review: S8E16: "Friendship University"

Rarity (as "Plainity") and Twilight (as "Eye Patch") argue
"This was the only emergency eye patch Pinkie had left!"
Well, it seems that I did have time to write a quick episode review after all. It's been a while since we saw Chris "Doc" Wyatt and Kevin Burke on the writers' credits for My Little Pony. In fact, their last episode was S6's "Viva Las Pegasus", which divided fandom opinion but which I liked rather a lot, and not only because of all the Fluttershy. How would this week's effort shape up? Come past the break with me and we'll find out!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Episode review will be along shortly

This week, anyway. I've had a much longer and more tiring weekend than I was expecting (although some of it was enjoyable) and I just haven't had the time or energy to write up my review for "Friendship University" yet. If everything falls into place, it'll be up tomorrow, but otherwise it'll be later this week.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 2 of 3

Time for the second instalment in this little series, which covers from episode 14 of S7 to that season's finale. Railfan continued to enjoy S7 in its second half, although not as much as with S7A (only five episodes rated 9 or 10) – and he most definitely didn't share my opinion of its first episode, "Fame and Misfortune"! For him, S7B was a bit uneven early and late, but it had a very solid core.

714: "Fame and Misfortune" – extremely negative (rated minus 3/10; "handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the crotch [...] the worst thing about the message is how insulting it comes off as [...] a complete disgrace to the series")

715: "Triple Threat" – mixed (rated 6/10; "just barely avoids mediocrity [...] I still find Thorax to be unlikable and unsympathetic, the plot comes off as confusing [but] Ember comes off as a strong character, the themes are really good, and there's a few funny jokes")

716: "Campfire Tales" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Sometimes, the best episodes are those that give us little to talk about")

717: "To Change a Changeling" – broadly positive (rated 8/10; "It's fairly entertaining, Pharynx was an interesting character (and more charismatic than Thorax has ever been), and the theme was a useful one for kids to learn.")

718: "Daring Done?" – very positive (rated 10/10; "The story of Somnambula [...] was a brilliant tie-in to the episode's theme about hope.")

719: "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Haber's best solo episode since 'Simple Ways' [...] the theme [...] suited Rarity's character brilliantly")

720: "A Health of Information" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "quite possibly Fluttershy's best starring role since 'Keep Calm and Flutter On'")

721: "Marks and Recreation" – positive (rated 8/10; "Rumble's a surprisingly relatable character and the themes relating to him are great, but he should've gotten a punishment for his actions.")

722: "Once Upon a Zeppelin" – mildly positive (rated 7/10; "the plot is rather thin, and needed to rely on strong characters to see through it. And it works. Mostly...")

723: "Secrets and Pies" – extremely negative (rated minus 5/10; "just awful, plain and simple. I don't know why anybody would even want to watch this episode; the main characters are unlikable and unsympathetic, the solution was too obvious, and the morals are terrible.")

724: "Uncommon Bond" – very negative (rated 2/10; "I find Sunburst to be a boring, uninteresting character [...] offered nothing in terms of originality [...] painfully dull")

725/726: "Shadow Play" – very positive (rated 10/10; "There's the right mix of comedy and drama, the storytelling is really strong, and the characters all felt genuine.")

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Here we go again! A slight drop in the reviewer count this time, as there's nothing from Dark Qiviut this week and it seems ShutterflyEQD's DeviantArt account (where their reviews were published) has been suspended. I'm not prepared to wait longer than a week for reviews, as otherwise it gets confusing since the following episode will already have aired. That being so, onwards!

This The Breakfast Club-inspired episode was very well received by most, with only Cuddlepug having a more mixed view and nobody outright disliking it. There were a few reservations about Twilight's choice of punishment, but the Student Six were very popular.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C+; "It's interesting learning about the festive rituals [the Student Six] engage in [...] but sadly the characters themselves are largely uninteresting")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "Remember how I said MLP usually does a good job of giving a fresh take of a oft-told storyline? This is what I am talking about.")

The Dragon Warlock – positive (graded B+; "really good character development for Gallus [...] doesn't break 'Molt Down' or 'Horse Play', but [S8] definitely stepped up its game")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "I loved this episode! [Gallus's story was] very touching [but Twilight] threatening all of the students to not be able to go home to their families for the holidays is just mean [...] Everything else was perfect.")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "an immensely entertaining episode, one which plays to the students' strengths and also gives us some backstory to flesh out their characters [though] Twilight's choice of punishment seems extremely harsh.")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("my personal favorite [Hearth's Warming episode] so far! Why? Well because of the development of the Student 6 of course, and how far they've gone together")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "so much effort was put into [the animation] a heartwarming and festive episode")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "I love it [...] the real standout character was Gallus [...] the story is brilliant, and the Young Six really shine")

Rainbine – very positive (rated 4.5/5; "I loved this episode [...] the students are still very likable [...] predictable [but] I had a lot of fun")

Friday, 10 August 2018

Episode review: S8E15: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Twilight, Rainbow and Spike confront the Student Six in a purple goo-covered room
"And if I ever, ever see Gak in this school again, it'll be too soon"
At last, I'm up to date with S8, on the Discovery Family schedule at least. I was really looking forward to "The Hearth's Warming Club". One reason was that I'm now a firm fan of the Student Six – props to the writers for making me care so much about characters who've been around for barely half a season. The other reason was that this episode was written by Brian Hohlfeld, who debuted with the excellent "Surf and/or Turf" earlier this season.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 1 of 3

I have now seen "The Hearth's Warming Club", so expect my review of that episode before the end of the week.

In a comment the other day, The Railfan Brony mentioned that he'd added reviews of S7 and early S8 episodes* to his blog, and wondered whether I'd be willing to add them to Text Review Roundup. I felt that retroactively adding them to the earlier TRR posts would be a bit unsatisfactory, but that I'd like to give them a place. To keep post length in check, I'm going to pull a Julius Caesar and divide the reviews into three parts, which I'll post over the next couple of weeks. Today, the first half of S7.

* Except the S8 premiere, which was in video format so doesn't qualify for a TRR spot.

Railfan had a pretty good time overall with S7A, awarding a 9 or 10 to no fewer than nine of the 13 episodes. He's kinder towards a few episodes than the fandom as a whole was, most notably in his admiration for "Fluttershy Leans In", the episode which came dead last in the UK of Equestria S7 poll. I'm afraid yak fans will be disappointed, though!

701: "Celestial Advice" – very positive (rated 9/10; "I really hope Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco stay for the foreseeable future.")

702: "All Bottled Up" – rather negative (rated 3/10; "Trixie was a nuisance in the first two acts, and the B-plot feels like [padding]. However, it did feel like the first step for Starlight to get some character development")

703: "A Flurry of Emotions" – very positive (rated 10/10; "This episode, I thought, did do Flurry justice [...] but can't we have visual consistency with the [Cake Twins]?")

704: "Rock Solid Friendship" – broadly positive (rated 7/10; "I've got problems with Pinkie's IQ in this episode [but it] does provide a very strong lesson")

705: "Fluttershy Leans In" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "the themes are amongst the best of the show, and Fluttershy's character is at her peak [...] a fantastic Fluttershy episode.")

706: "Forever Filly" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "beautiful and heartwarming from beginning to end [with] some of the most mature themes in a kids' show.")

707: "Parental Glideance" – mixed (rated 6/10; "I liked Scootaloo's role [but the flashback's continuity feels off] it has a good idea [...] but the end result comes off as weird at best.")

708: "Hard to Say Anything" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Despite a couple of issues I have, I still enjoyed it, and would gladly take this over Legend of Everfree [which Railfan detested] any day of the week.")

709: "Honest Apple" – very positive (rated 9/10; "The pacing is quite possibly the strongest aspect [...] emotions are also handled brilliantly [though] the Applejack/Rarity dynamic feels extremely overused")

710: "A Royal Problem" – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "possibly my favorite episode of the [entire] series, hooves down [...] perhaps [Starlight's] best overall [...] The themes alone in this episode are brilliant ... Daybreaker [is] a great addition")

711: "Not Asking for Trouble" – very negative (rated 1/10; "painfully sluggish [...] the episode's biggest downfall is the moral [...] boring")

712: "Discordant Harmony" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Fluttershy is the standout character [...] I've got some issues with the "be yourself" moral being overdone, but it makes sense for Discord to learn it.")

713: "The Perfect Pear" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "I dare you to go watch this episode and say you weren't close to crying [...] in my [all-time] top 5"

And that's all for today! At some point in the next few days I'll put up the second instalment of this mini-series. Part 2 will of course kick off with S7's most divisive episode, "Fame and Misfortune". Exciting, isn't it? :P

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

No Ponyfic Roundup today

Owing to my break last week, PR is also taking a break. Never fear, though: it'll be back next Wednesday! Among the stories under review will be horizon's Administrative Angel. If you're really lucky, there may be more than one story under review. :P

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "A Matter of Principals"

I'm going to give continuing with Text Review Roundup a go and see how well it works. Given that I'll be reviewing episodes on roughly the DF schedule (once I've caught up!), it shouldn't be impossible. However, I don't think I'm going to be able to add in late reviews any more, as the timetable would just get too confused. We'll see.

A pretty full slate of reviewers this time, and there's a running theme: Discord's sometimes startlingly unpleasant characterisation was generally very unpopular, with the vast majority of reviewers disliking it.

Cuddlepug – very negative (graded D-; "the episode actually rewards Discord for being an asshole")

Dark Qiviut – rather negative ("[Starlight was right to apologise but] the story lets [Discord] off without any level of consequence and rewards him for it [...] almost all the jokes fall flat [...] watchable mediocrity")

Derpy News – mixed (graded B; "Some of the gags were funny, some of the cameos were great, but the episode does suffer a bit from Discord’s antics.")

The Dragon Warlock – negative (graded D; "The character bonding with Spike and Starlight is fun and reminds me of the early days of Spike and Twilight. However, as soon as Discord shows up, things start falling apart.")

JDPrime22 – positive with reservations (rated 7/10; "I'll admit that while I did enjoy the comedy in this one (the whole bit with Trixie and Iron Will was great) we see Discord being unusually cruel to the students")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; "This could have been a four-star episode, but Discord's characterisation – the Yona scene in particular – leaves a sufficiently sour taste for me to knock off one of those stars.")

Mega Sean 45 – generally very positive ("Discord is an immature baby [but] a very impressive episode!")

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (rated 7/10; "great getting to see the many different cultures of Equestria explored [but] felt like [Discord's] character had regressed")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "[Starlight and Discord's] characters make sense, the third act is one of the funniest of the show, and the twist at the end was rather unexpected.")

Rainbine – mildly positive (rated 3.5/5; "Starlight Glimmer once again proved that she's a great character [but] Where did the hell did [Discord's character development] go in this episode?")

ShutterflyEQD – positive with reservations ("I sure wish I could favorite more from this episode, but Discord really got on my nerves.")

Monday, 6 August 2018

Episode review: S8E14: "A Matter of Principals"

Discord, wearing glasses and consulting a scroll, gives a mischievous smile
"They never would be missed"
I probably ought to mention, so I will, that I'll be reviewing episodes on the Discovery Family schedule, more or less. It seems that Boomerang in Australia is likely to rush through the entire remainder of the season at two episodes per week, and that's just too hectic a schedule for me. Now I'm back home from my little break, I can talk a bit about this episode: "A Matter of Principals" was written by Nicole Dubuc, and...

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 213: Spotlight on The Cough

Yes, that's right: I'm doing a Spotlight edition of PR for a story that's barely a thousand words long. This wasn't my original intention, but I just can't fit everything I want to say into a single paragraph. In fact, this post has ended up longer than the fic itself!

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

The Cough by Ebon Mane
Mane Six
Romance/Dark; 1k words; Aug 2011; Teen (Gore)
The mane six take shelter in a place that is, for now, safe from a disaster occurring outside.This gruesome tale of violence and death is not recommended for colts, fillies, or the faint of heart.
This fic's opening line is "In the darkness, somepony coughed." The question is who. It matters because, as Twilight explains, coughing is the symptom of the final stage of a terrible disease that becomes highly contagious. In other words, the only way to stop all the Mane Six sickening and dying is for the cougher to die. Right now. The play-out is grim, so be prepared. However, at the end you'll be left wondering. (These days, I suspect the fic would have [Horror] and [Mystery] tags.) This is a very old story, so bear that in mind as regards characterisation, and it also really shows its age in the plentiful LUS. Ebon Mane's writing was not as good in 2011 as it later became. Despite those problems, this fic is likely to stick with you – and perhaps even keep you awake at night. ★★★★

Some more detailed thoughts, which are very spoilery indeed, await beyond the break.