Sunday, 30 June 2019

Rainbow Roadtrip: I'll get to it!

I've now seen Rainbow Roadtrip.* It will be a little while before I get it reviewed here, though, partly because I want to watch it again and 60 minutes of Pony obviously takes longer to rewatch than 22 minutes! I also endured a nightmare journey home yesterday in 32 °C heat with the railways falling apart around me, so I was simply too exhausted to do anything about the special until this afternoon.

* Italics rather than quotes as it feels like a cut-down film to me, rather than a lengthened episode.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Between Dark and Dawn"

Zack Warner (aka The Railfan Brony) commented last week to alert me to Scyph's review of "The Last Crusade". It's an interesting and quite in-depth review that takes a fairly critical line on the theme of "This episode could have been so much more". Unfortunately Scyph doesn't seem to be a regular MLP reviewer, otherwise I'd have added them to the TRR roster.

Here we go with the final TRR of the first half of S9. I'll be doing one for "Rainbow Roadtrip", and the show people may decide that counts as an episode as "Best Gift Ever" did, but it's going to be a bit different from the usual 22-minute instalments nevertheless. After that, there'll be a few weeks of hiatus. I'll probably kick off "Sounds of 2012" during that period. I'll get round to the latest Equestria Girls special at some point, too, though I keep forgetting it exists which maybe isn't the best sign.

As far as "Between Dark and Dawn" went, the text-based reviewers were a pretty mixed bag. A couple really liked it, two reviewers really disliked it, but everyone else was somewhere in the middle or slightly above. There was general agreement that the song was good – even The Railfan Brony said that in his otherwise very negative review, leaving Present Perfect as the only reviewer here who actively disliked it. Most reviewers also considered the Twilight secondary plot to be somewhat dull. I was again in the main pack but near the back of it.

Cuddlepug – mildly positive (graded B-; "great song [...] enjoyable, even if it ultimately fails to say very much")

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("Great humor, great characterization, and great heart [...] The little details add extra shape")

DrakeyC – mostly positive ("a fun episode, love the sisterly dynamic between Celestia and Luna, and they gave us lots of fun moments. And we got a SISTERS SONG [but] Where this episode really didn't work was the B plot")

Dramamaster829 – positive ("the side plot [was] forgettable [but] a sweet and endearing tale featuring two soon-to-be former rulers of Equestria")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 9/10; "This episode was a blast! Aside from Fancy Pants not stating early on that the princesses relied on the Canterlot Gala Committee [...] this episode was great")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("great [...] Twilight sounded a bit stubborn not wanting Fancy Pants' help [...] the song "Lotta Little Things" was so lovely")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; " It was odd, and in both good and bad ways [...] a Celestia/Luna duet and boy was it entertaining [...] A nice way of doing the old "Luna doesn't understand modern life" trope [but] Twilight really should not need to learn yet again how to delegate")

Mike Cartoon Pony – mixed ("enjoyable in the moment but leaves a borderline-incomprehensible impression once it has wrapped, not helped by the quality frequently veering back and forth between cloud-breaking highs and trench-deep lows")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 9/10; "hammy playfulness [but the secondary plot] got old really fast [...] still a fun-filled and heartwarming road trip")

Present Perfect – very negative ("Neither Celestia nor Luna has gotten any real respect since about season two [...] Why do I feel like the plot is a mishmash of numerous other, better episodes? [...] I just hope I never see this again, it’s one of the worst episodes of the show’s run.")

The Railfan Brony – very negative (rated Atrocious; "The only good aspect about this episode is Celestia and Luna's duet [but it's] one of the most abysmally written episodes of the entire series [...] retreading old ground [...] unfortunate implications, and an uninteresting end result")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (rated 9/10; "The writing is great with solid characterization, the comedy is just as good, and it manages to take a concept that sounds cliche and make it work very well [though it] does suffer some issues like Fancy Pants still being a jerk")

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 255

Read it Later story count: 250 (-4)

Now there's a milestone: this is the first time since I started keeping score that the number of my RiL list entries has been lower than the number of its contemporary Ponyfic Roundup edition. Although my list has shrunk by four, I have only the three fics to review this week, but they are a moderately mixed bag. Here's the list:

Berry Bitters and Apple Sours by King of Beggars
An Ordinary Day by alt-tap
The Flirt by Sir Hat

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

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Episode review: S9E13: "Between Dark and Dawn"

I do wonder whether the FlimFlams' problems have something to do with Capper
And here we are. Although there's a special coming down the tracks pretty soon, "Between Dark and Dawn" was the last regular episode of Friendship is Magic before our last ever mid-season hiatus. This one saw a new writer: Gail Simone. Although she's new to My Little Pony, many comic-book fans will be familiar with her from her work on Birds of Prey, Batgirl and so on. How would she fare with a TV-Y kids' show? Well...

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Yes, it's meta time again!

Another very, very busy weekend for me (steam trains again!) so this is another week when blog publication days are shifted back a little. I hope to have the episode review up on Tuesday, Ponyfic Roundup on Thursday and Text Review Roundup on Friday – but I'm so tired right now that I can't entirely guarantee those dates. I'll post all of them as soon as I can get the time (and energy), of course. :)

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!