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24 February 2011

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" Review

- Created by Lauren Faust.

            It’s been a while since I last made a TV Series review. I usually tend to stay away from TV as much as I can, since in this day and age all that is TV related pretty much sucks more than a desperate porn actress. There’s really nothing good out there, nothing that gives me a reason to sit on my sofa every week the same day at the same hour for six or seven months. I like to blame the internet for this, as the majority of the entertainment I am getting is from video websites alone. That’s something everybody knows but that is hard to admit and it will occupy an article in the future, maybe.


I am saying all this because in this review the Internet and the TV will go hand in hand more than they ever wished for, since this TV show I am reviewing today has yet to be aired in my country but has been brought to me thanks to the all-mighty-powerful Interwebs, but before going inside it let me give you a small flashback to my childhood so you know where I am coming with this.

I was born in the 80’s, mid 80’s to be exact, so the majority of the shows that I watched as a little kid have already been raped by several film makers with hands hammier than a George Lucas after watching the entire filmography of Al Pacino. Back in those days, you know the days when “Oh it doesn’t matter if he plays with Barbies, he is just five years old”, I used to have quite a few My Little Pony toys. I remember I had three, and I loved how detailed and cute the horses looked like. The accessories, the manes, the color, it was wonderful stuff. But unlike any other kid, I got the toys before watching the show, and when I finally decided to sit my ADD ass in front of the TV to watch the series I realized how bad it was. Even as a 5 year old I knew the show was cheesy to no end, to a degree it could actually be called “My Little Phony”. It was a vehicle to transmit morals to kids and stuff their brains with what’s good or bad, giving zero entertaining value. That’s why I watched “Transformers” instead, as I played with My Little Pony toys making robot noises, hoping that one day that show I imagined might come true.

Sadly we have yet to see a show called “My Little Robo-Mecha-Suit-Gundam-Evangelion Pony of Badass Extreme” that features a raze of alien-horses with the powers to command bionic butterflies and summon storms of rainbows from their anuses, so until then let’s enjoy “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, the best written show since “Gargoyles” (I’ve never watched “Avatar: The Last Airbender” but those who did can consider that one the last good written show before this one). 
This is the closest I ever got.

 I was pin-pointed at this show by two friends of mine, which made me immediately suspicious. It’s not that I don’t trust them, I will trust them with my life, my videogames, my artwork, my money and everything that I could think of…except movies (different from TV shows, but you know what I mean). The last movie recommended by (one of) them was “GI Joe”, so you know how weary I was about this reboot of a show I initially never liked. I wasn’t particularly eager to watch it, and I think that is the best attitude to approach anything. If you have Zero Expectations about anything (books, movies, TV shows…) you can grow a better opinion than having a hype bigger than your ego, which is what made me turn down in so many films and books in the past. So now that the “I wasn’t expecting anything good from this show” paragraph is done let’s move onto the real review of it, because I am genuinely eager, and it’s not because these fears were confirmed. It’s because these fears were relentlessly crushed under a firey hove of awesomeness.

This show is fantastic. I could end the whole review by just saying that, but it really is, it’s one of those shows that combines every single element so well that transcends the limitations of age and gender and it appeals to everybody equally, making you really happy in the process, charging your emotional batteries and giving solid morals to the kids who may watch it. It’s really hard where to start with this show since it has so many good things, so I guess I am going to focus on the first aspect everybody focuses on, the animation and the character design.

Do you remember how the original ponies looked like? If you don’t make a quick search in Google and you will realize how bad, how pudgy, how ridiculous and extremely girly the ponies looked like. It was failed design 101, so bad it wasn’t even funny but painful to look at. The problem with the show, at least I think it was this problem, was that the characters were designed after the toys and so they looked like stuffed animals that had been assembled by Jeffrey Coombs. In the new show the ponies look odd at first (which is understandable taking this is from the makers of The Power-Puff Girls, another show I love) but once you see them in motion and action you realize how good the design is. It’s solid, it’s flexible, the ponies can basically do everything (and for characters without opposable thumbs that’s quite a feat) and the animation style is even closer to classic anime than to western animation trying to copy anime. Its visuals are eye-popping, ranging from the peaceful and quiet to the LSD-powered, ultra-colorful (yet flashy free) action set pieces. It’s one of the most visually memorable shows ever put together and it left a lasting impression in my imagination and memory, something I will never ever forget.

 Evolution means bigger heads and bigger eyes!

Okay, but visuals are not everything, how about the sound, music and voice acting? I am big on sound, but I will be short and simple and say that sound effects haven’t been used to such a comedic extent since the Tex Avery cartoons, they are never intrusive and they enhance the hilarity of the scene. The music is amazing, and that’s because of the amount of ear-worms it’s able to produce. There is a pony (of whom we will talk in a while) that basically sings in every episode, whether is a silly song or a fully blown orchestral set piece. If you want to do nothing but hum the same tune for three weeks go search “Winter Wrap Up” on YouTube, but don’t come whining at me afterwards. That said, I admit the songs are quite simplistic in their metric and sometimes you can feel they are going by the numbers, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Alan Menken has been doing that for decades and the Oscars keep nominating him. Lastly the voice acting is great. I am watching the English dub, because I hate the Spanish dub of basically everything that is not “CSI”, and I can say it’s wonderful. Tara Strong does a great job though that’s not new, but what is new is the outstanding work of Ashleigh Ball who voices two characters so different in personalities and that are always rivaling between each other to the point you forget they are the same voice actress. That shows talent.

So okay, okay, visuals are good, music is awesome, voice acting is great, sound effects are cartoony, but this all will fall apart because of the writing! The writing! It’s got to be terrible! Save the children! The whole world is collapsing!!! …Right? Oh no sir, not right at all.

You remember how at the start of this review I mentioned how this show transcended the barriers of gender and age, making this enjoyable for everybody? Well, that fact (because it is a fact, if you don’t believe take a trip to 4chan, they fucking love this show) it’s not because of the visuals, the music, or other technical achievements; it’s because of the story and the characters. The main strength of this show relies on how well written it is, how good these characters are, and how real it all feels despite the fact that you are watching a show about magical ponies, pegasi and unicorns living in a land called “Equestria”. It is difficult for movies (let alone TV shows) to make you care for their characters, but this is a wonderful exception. You feel happy when they succeed in an impossible feat, you feel sad when they fail, you laugh when they act silly, and you are in the edge of your seat when they are in danger. I was surprised how fast and how subtly I became invested in these characters oh whom I will speak right now.

First off, before talking about them, I want to point the fact that this show is in no way a one character centric show. There is no clear protagonist as it’s always moving from the point of view of several characters during each episode, sometimes with hilarious results and others with quite dramatic ones. This is something few shows (even live action ones) do, and it makes the connection to these characters a lot stronger.


We have Twilight Sparkle, who we might consider the protagonist of the show since the first episode starts with her and we follow her through the entire series as she is introduced to this new world. She is a bookworm who is tasked with the mission of making friends with the ponies at Ponyville in order to unlock the magic of an ancient cluster of artifacts to banish an evil power. I love that, I just read what I wrote and it sounds so cheesy it’s wonderful. That’s pretty much the entire plot and it is right there in the subtitle of the show: “Friendship is Magic”, friendship will banish all evil because as long as you have friends you can accomplish the most difficult tasks. That’s just for the first episode and first character, and the morals are stronger than the entire run of Captain Planet.

Apple Jack is the redneck pony of the bunch. She is a country pony, really strong and butchy who loves apples, eating, and having no manners or fragility at all. Her determination compensates for a worrisome lack of sensitivity, as she starts taking into account other pony’s feelings after she had already made the damage. But she is dedicated, strong, determined, will-powered and reliable, making her a loyal friend in the group.
Rainbow Dash is the cocky pony. She is a Pegasus obsessed with flying and performing aerial maneuvers, aspiring to be part of an elite group of pegasi called “The Wonder Bolts” who all seem to mimic The Rocketeer as they are experts in flying exhibitions and rescue operations. That attitude gets her in quite a few problems as she is usually self-centered and egoistic, not with others but to herself. She pushes herself to the limit and doesn’t always come out clean out of it, acting without thinking on the consequences. But she is always there for her friends as she will drop whatever she is doing to go help them. Also, she is my favorite *glee-gasm*.
Rarity is, oddly enough, the pony I identify myself the most with. She is a bit of a bitch who can’t stop comparing things with herself and that is obsessed with order, perfection and hates getting her hooves dirty. When she starts getting the attention she becomes unbearable and drags everybody towards her like a black hole. But she is also disinterested, generous and always willing to put her own personal matters and interests aside just to give her friends what they want. She spends an entire episode doing some dresses to her friends only to re-do them later because they didn’t liked them. That right there is a metaphor for every artist who takes commissions. She is fragile but she makes up for it being good with everybody, why else would she have a high-couture boutique in a town instead of a big city?
Pinkie Pie is…Pinkie Pie is the Deadpool of the show. Not that she uses katanas, guns, can regenerate and talks in golden speech bubbles, but because she seems to be the only character who knows they are in an animated show watched by 25 year old guys. She is random in her own way but always has a reason to do things. Meaningless is not an adjective that defines Pinkie, since there is always a meaning behind everything she does, even when it doesn’t look like it. She is wonderfully funny, and you will think I’d hate her for being so noisy and screechy, but she is adorable and hilarious, a perfect throw back to the old school slapstick cartoons we are so needed of nowadays. She is the character you never see coming but you are glad she is there, like those friends you don’t miss until they are not around.
Fluttershy is the apparently fragile pony of the group, but her strength is not in what she is showing. She is like a ticking bomb of valor ready to explode. Her soft voice, always sad eyes and easy going attitude hide a steel coated emotional shield she wields every time the situation seems helpless. The fact she has managed to tame down a Manticore and brought a full grown Dragon to tears just proves how much potential for badass she is hiding. Like they say, it’s the quiet ones you got to watch, and Fluttershy is 100% quiet and peaceful, until you mess with her friends! She is like Bruce Banner minus the painful transformation.
Finally we have the male presence of the show, and I will talk about him or else his fans will rip me a new one. Spike is Twilight Sparkle’s Baby Dragon helper. He has the power to send letters to the Queen of Equestria via his “Magic Breath” (yeah, he burps emails, isn’t it great?) and acts like the male counter-point to what was supposed to be the entire female audience. He is like any guy going “Oh, this girly thing I can’t stand it, it’s making me wanna puke” and then when the girls are gone “Yay! Let’s go Rainbow Dash, show them how’s it’s done!” He is deeply in love with Rarity and yearns to conquer her heart, alone or armed with a moustache, and his taste in food is…questionable to say the least. 
Okay, you can return but only if you get me a 3DS.

Respect the other characters of the show Princess Celestia is the one with the most protagonism out of the supporting characters, since she always asks Twilight Sparkle for a report on the “Magic of Friendship” moment of the show where the writers use to tell the moral of the story. I like that system, as clunky as it may sound it does make sense. Twilight is like Ethan Hunt, giving a report of the mission at the end of every chapter, only instead of Government secrets he’d be reporting about magic powers. Other characters include a female gryphon with anger issues, a unicorn that is more boast than magic, a Zebra that speaks in rhymes, a stallion called Macintosh, Princess Celestia’s sister Luna (who should be in more episodes, by the way) and a a trio of little ponies that have their cutie marks yet to show up.

Now, I hope you noticed what just happened there. I spent literally two pages talking about story and characters, and I could spend another two pages talking about the plot of each and every episode, but I think I shouldn’t do that. Me telling you the plot of each episode will be unforgiving and unfair, as you deserve to check them out and enjoy them on your own. My recommendation might carry few weight (if no weight at all) but this is a show everybody can genuinely like and enjoy. I could easily see through all the colors and the striking visuals to appreciate the solidness of its core, which lies on the story and the characters, which is something we rarely see nowadays and it’s something nobody seems to care anymore.

TL; DR

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is a show that ignores the limits of age and gender and appeals to everybody equally, wielding a solid plot with strong characters and eye-popping visuals, this is the perfect show for the era of the internet. A must watch.
 

12 comments:

  1. I love the show :D

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  2. It's unreal how good this show is. My kids love it, I love it.

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  3. I love this show so much. Lauren Faust (lead creator) is really at the top of her game, bringing much needed love and respect to a franchise that really deserves it.

    Mr. Corck, if you're not familiar with Lauren Faust's other work, besides writing for PPGs, check out Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends - where she did some writing, direction, and animation (and the character Frankie is based on her).

    You also mention that you haven't seen Avatar - it's not quite Gargoyles, but it's still definitely worth your time if you ever have any to spare.

    Also, Pendleton Ward's Adventure Time, is another very strong cartoon that's currently running. The animation style and character designs might not be as immediately engaging as MLP:FiM, but they grow on you quickly, and the writing is top notch.

    Peace Out, my Brony. :)

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  4. I agree wholeheartedly. This show is far better than it has any right to be, and it is a must-see for anyone looking for good, solid, quality TV time.



    Also, if you haven't seen Avatar: The Last Airbender yet, you should definitely check it out. Yes, it is the best show immediately preceding FiM.

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  5. The chart at the end is so accurate. I started watching this late at night with a "lets what all these crazy ponies are all about" attitude, and around ep 4 to 5 i got completely hooked.

    2 days later I've seen every single episode and know all the songs by heart :3

    Guess I'm a Bronie now.

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  6. This show.. is... so.. good.... Give DVD or Blu-ray :D

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  7. Browsing /b/ and various other parts of the interwebs from time to time I saw a lot of My Little Pony. Initial reaction.. wtf? ok w/evs.

    Couple friends of mine told me it was amazing and I needed to watch it. Both of them are Furries so I figured that might have something to do with it.

    Boredom struck me, torrents were.. torrented? and I finally watched it. Best. Show. Ever.

    Power to us Bronies!

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  8. The drunk tank podcast actually got me hooked. After Michel called it "the shit" I decided to check it out,and 3 days later I'm a brony

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  9. Good review. Enjoyable to read.

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  10. i love this show to death

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  11. My Little Pony Friendship is Magic - 20% cooler (in 10 seconds flat!) than the next best show (whatever it is)




    Oh yeah, JSYK Rainbow Dash is the awesomest pony eva. The Sonic Rainboom, guys, the FRIGGIN SONIC RAINBOOM!!!!!

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  12. I agree with you Corck, Luna really does need to be in more episodes. If you havn't yet you need to watch the Nightmare Night episode in season 2. She pretty the center of it.

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