MLP Review: Shadow Play

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For those of you who argue that there are episodes of the show that were better than the Movie, here’s another one to add to the list. Sunburst discovers Star Swirl’s journal (not to be confused with his spell book in “Magical Mystery Cure”). It turns out that he, Rookhoof, Flash Magnus, Mistmane, Sonmambula, and Mage Meadowbrook were brought together to serve as pillars of Equestria through sorcery, strength, bravery, beauty, hope, and healing. The six pillars sacrificed themselves against the Pony of Shadows to send it and them in limbo. Before doing that, they left a seed that would grow into the Tree of Harmony.

Astonished that the legends are real as well as the Pony of Shadows, Twilight sets out to set her mentor and the other pillars free. To do that, she, the rest of the Mane Six, and Spike set out to retrieve the following: Rookhoof’s hammer, Flash’s shield, Mistmane’s flower, Meadowbrook’s mask, and Sonmambula’s blindfold. Twilgiht, Starlight (who has her doubts about this), and Sunburst make the final preparations. They succeed in bringing the pillars back, but also the Pony of Shadows.

The Pony of Shadows retreats after being held back by Star Swirl ,Twilight, and Starlight. The Pillars and Mane Six move on a plan to banish the Pony of Shadows for good, though Twilight is hesitant to sacrifice the Elements of Harmony and Starlight is wondering about whether this is really a friendship problem. The map calls every pony to Hollow Shades where the pony named Stygian who was exiled by the Pillars for taking their instruments. Just as the Pillars and Mane Six attack, Twilight sees Stygian trapped inside and goes in. Stygian maintained that he only took the instruments to replicate them and gain their respect after bringing them to take on and trap the Sirens. With an assist from Starlight, the rest of the Pillars and Mane Six free Stygian and send the shadow back into limbo.

Star Swirl reunites with Celestia and Luna and the Pillars will go out exploring what’s become of their lands and of Equestria. He also thanks Twilight for helping him understand friendship and Twilight thanks Starlight for helping her see things beyond her idol worship.

So where to begin with this? After he was first mentioned 138 episodes ago, we get to see Star Swirl in the flesh. We had the Legends of Magic comic series as well as the episodes “Campfire Tales”, “Daring Done?”, and “A Health of Information”; but didn’t know it would all come together in this fashion in the finale. And it all worked very well. One thing that didn’t work well was the root of the conflict which came down to poor communication between Stygian and the Pillars. While the Pillars got all the glory for defeating the Sirens, Stygian got none and tried to do so through somewhat nefarious means and went on a downward spiral from there. But really, that was the only flaw in this episode.

Every single character was in top form and it was interesting to see the Pillars interact with their respective successor in terms of the Elements of Harmony. The continuity not just with the season, but the comics and “Rainbow Rocks” as well was spot on. Recall that Twilight was able to complete a spell that Star Swirl couldn’t because he did not understand friendship like Twilight in “Magical Mystery Cure”. It was a nice touch to have each of Twilight’s friends demonstrate their elements as reflections of each of the Pillars’ elements.

So this was a top class finale to cap off a wonderful Season Seven. It is a definite step up in class from Season Six and how it compares to Seasons Four and Five is anyone’s guess. We certainly cannot wait for Season Eight!

GRADE: A

Top Five Season Seven Episdoes:
1. The Perfect Pear
2. Shadow Play
3. A Royal Problem
4. Once Upon A Zeppelin
5. Parental Glidance

Bottom Five Season Seven Episodes:
5. Rock Solid Friendship
4. Marks and Recreation
3. Honest Apple
2. Not Asking for Trouble
1. Triple Threat

(NOTE: It was very hard to name the bottom five, especially where there were just two obvious choices.)

The Season Seven Songs:
1. Flawless
2. You’re In My Head Like A Catchy Song
3. Best Friends Until the End of Time
4. Battle for Sugar Belle
5. Blank Flanks Forever

(These were the only five songs in the season. “Pinkie Pride” itself had six songs.)

A more in-depth Season Seven review is coming up!

StatManDan

My Little Pony 725 & 726 – Shadow Play Episode Guide

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725 & 726 – “Shadow Play”

Written by: Josh Haber
Part 1 – “When Sunburst discovers the lost journal of Starswirl the Bearded, Twilight becomes obsessed with saving her magical idol from a thousand year old prison.
Part 2 – “With Starswirl and the other Pillars of Old Equestria back from limbo (where they’ve been trapped for a thousand years), Twilight and all of her friends must work together to defeat the Pony of Shadows.

Transcript
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Inside the Numbers: Hasbro’s Q3 Earnings

Whatever way you look at the box office receipts from My Little Pony:  The Movie, one metric in which Hasbro does measure the success of the movie is in toy sales. On that end, it is doing its job. MLP broke its quarterly losing streak in the 3rd quarter as it was listed as one of the franchise brands leading Hasbro’s growth in the quarter alongside Nerf, Transformers, and Monopoly. Franchise Brands increased 7% as a whole while Gaming (which also included Monopoly) rose 22%. Emerging Brands were up 9% led by gains in Furreal Friends and Baby Alive. Partner Brands declined by 2% as gains in Star Wars, Sesame Street, Beyblade, and Disney Descendants were offset by declines in Yokai Watch and Dreamworks’ Trolls.

Hasbro as a whole grew revenues by 7% while operating profit was relatively flat and was negatively impacted by the recent bankruptcy filing of Toys R Us. Hasbro is reported to receive 9% of its revenue from sales at Toys R U and is exposed to $60 million of the toy retailer’s $5 billion debt in terms of unsecured claims for payment.

“My Little Pony revenue increased behind the release of MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE and successfully drove point-of-sale gains around the movie debut,” said Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner as transcribed by Seeking Alpha. “Our content to commerce model delivers multiple revenue streams, including entertainment and merchandise and we are well positioned in our investment.

“The film was successful in reinvigorating and energizing our core consumer base and our fan base, while inviting new fans into the brand. The film is yet to be released in a number of international markets and will be followed by the Home Entertainment window, an important element of expanding the audience.”

Goldner also shared that the movie was made on “modest budget” and that Lionsgate pre-sells the film in “substantial part of the global marketplace” and self-distribute in the UK and most of Latin America.

“The rest of the markets they are pre-selling, so you get that recoupment right up front around your production expense,” Goldner continued. “The movie itself, if you take it through the waterfall should be a contributor to the company over time. Obviously, it may not occur in the — by the fourth quarter this year, because obviously our expenses for producing the movie will hit in the fourth quarter this year, but again, remember it’s a modest budget. However, all the streams of income that it’s creating, including consumer products are toys and games business. The digital game that’s performing at a very high-level from Budge Studios and new games that are coming we think it’s a great model for the brand. And of course we continue with the 7th season of the television that’s appearing globally on linear television services as well as in stream services, it’s a very strong performer on Netflix and other services. We see this as a very good model for us go forward.”

Goldner still has belief in the model for MLP going into 2018 and thinks “the team is beginning to think about what our next movie might look like” and that brand will continue to halo strongly. Goldner also stated in the earnings call that revenues for MLP year-to-date are also now on the plus side.

Because of the Toys R Us bankruptcy, Hasbro expects more modest growth in the fourth quarter. However, they also expect MLP to be a big player in the months ahead as MLP heads to video in the near future and the show enters its eighth season in 2018. We are not certain as to interpret Mr. Goldner’s comments about what the ’next movie’ he mentioned will be a new MLP Movie, though fans wouldn’t mind that in the slightest. He feels that there was enough to reinvigorate the core consumer base and fan base, so we’ll see what happens over the next couple of quarters.

StatManDan

Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! – Circles

Source: MLP: FIM Marks and Recreation

Her passion is drawing circles.  Her cutie mark is in writing haikus.  These things are actually connected!

Kettle Corn’s circles resemble ensō, a form of Zen Buddhist calligraphy in Japan. Haiku is a form of poetry that originated with Buddhist monks in Japan.

I think this beautifully illustrates how our passions, our talents, and our destinies (as manifested in our cutie marks) are connected in ways that we can’t always see.  It gives a whole new dimension to the themes that the show has explored in post-cutie-mark Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes. Getting your flank tattoo doesn’t set you in stone for your entire life like Rumble thinks. In fact, you can have post cutie mark crises, (as exemplified by Apple Bloom, Diamond Tiara, and Bulk Biceps).  You can find whole other layers of meaning in what you do that weren’t necessarily apparent when you first got your mark!

Kettle Corn has a whole journey ahead of her.  Parts of her personality, and parts of her soul are going to become clearer to her as she explores these Zen-related interests, but she will not have the words to articulate their connection.  She will never know what Buddhism, or Japan is, even if her life’s journey is destined to be *weeaboo af.*

However, that doesn’t stop different elements of Japanese philosophy from making themselves manifest in her.

Think of the implications of that!

What if different life events, or passions that define who we are turn out to actually be connected in ways that we cannot see?  Just like this little girl will never fully be able to articulate that her personality is essentially a running gag, referential to a place she’ll never see or read about, our own lives may never fully be clear to us except in the vaguest of feelings and intuitions.

Simply put, we lack the perspective to “get the joke.”

When I posted this theory on Facebook, I got one cynical comment about our lives being “jokes.” I want to clarify. I don’t mean that we are literally fictional characters and that our lives are literally one big meaningless joke. I’m saying that perspective is everything!
We know ourselves better than anyone else does, and at the same time, only see ourselves from the inside. Those of us who are prone to guilt look at ourselves more harshly than we look at others. We don’t extend the same kind of forgiveness to ourselves that we extend to our friends in the same situations. Conversely, those who are defensive actually repaint their own actions in positive lights. They refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing in their own behaviors, even if they objectively view those behaviors as wrong in others. That’s part of what makes life so confusing. No matter what, we will always lack the perspective to examine ourselves truly objectively.

We can try, we can even come a little bit closer with every revelation, but at the end of the day, we are still viewing ourselves from the inside. There’s an old saying, “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish.”

It is as tragic as it is humorous. I think there’s joy to be found in that. I also think there’s a greater understanding to be had by it. While there are some truly messed up and evil people in the world, for the most part, when folks do wrong, they are usually just doing the best they can with what they have. Simply put, we mess up because we’re human.

Once you recognize your own trappings, however – once you contemplate and appreciate just how difficult it is to try to make sense of your own life, you start to realize that everyone else is going through the exact same thing. We are all feeling around in the dark. We all lack the perspective to gain a fully objective picture of ourselves. We are all suffering because of it: our friends; our enemies; our ideological opponents. That existential question – that suffering – is at the core of all of our beings. It is the one thing we all have in common.

While we, like Kettle Corn, will never find the answers – will never fully be in on “the joke” – we can still look at one another and attempt to be compassionate, and to show compassion whenever we can, even to those whom we oppose. After all, we’re all in the same boat.
Or at the very least, maybe we, like Kettle Corn, should stop, and simply take joy in doing something we love every now and again, and do it for its own sake. Maybe that’s all the answer we need.

A girl loves circles
But is meant to write haikus.
They are the same thing.

-Sprocket

Please support me on Patreon. That is, if you want to.  No pressure of course.
You can also follow Heart Full of Pony on Tumblr or FimFic.

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You knew the show would get around to this, so it follows that it is the penultimate episode of the season. Sunburst comes to Ponyville to see Starlight Glimmer. The latter is really looking forward to the trip, but is surprised to learn that Sunburst likes to go antique hunting—so does Twilight. He also likes stage tricks like Trixie and geology like Maud Pie.

All of this actually upsets Starlight because Sunburst has turned out different after al the years apart and that he has more in common with Starlight’s friends than with herself. Starlight attempts to relive the good old days with Sunburst to the point of travel back in time and as foals to play their favorite board game, but that doesn’t work.

Twilight re-assures Starlight that Sunburst still wants to be friends (even though he doesn’t have a troubled past or a shared feeling of being different from others) and they, Maud, and Trixie present a life-size version of Dragon Pit (the board game). While Starlight and Sunburst do not have as much in common as they used to, they can still enjoy each other’s company. Though judging by the book in the mystery barrel (and in Legends of Magic #6), that next meeting may come much sooner!

So this was a decent episode. We have seen before in other cartoons where things can change between friends after an extended period of time apart, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be friends anymore. As long as friends enjoy each other’s company, then that’s all that really matters. There’s really not much more to add to this episode is that it does set up the season finale next Saturday. Stay tuned!

GRADE:  B+

StatManDan

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724 – “Uncommon Bond”

Written by: Josh Haber, Kevin Lappin
When Starlight gets a visit from Sunburst, she discovers that he has tons in common with her friends and starts to wonder if he still has anything in common with her.

Transcript
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IDW Solicitations for January 2018

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Solicitations for January are available! Check out what’s coming after the break.

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