Tag: review

MLP Review: A Rockhoof and A Hard Place

Well, that was a unexpected. Rockhoof is trying to find his place in the modern world after being in limbo for 1,000 years. His “traditional” methods of unearthing artifacts clashing with the meticulous methods of Professor Fossil in Rockhoof’s old land. His re-enactment of his tales tends to cause damage to Twilight’s school. He also disrupts a fire-breathing contest between Spike and Smolder, mistaking it for a raging fire.

The other pillars haven been adjusting much better than Rockhoof. In Canterlot, Flash Magnus is the new drill sergeant for Princess Celestia’s royal guards. In the Crystal Empire, Mistmane is the royal landscape artist for Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor. In her village home in Southern Equestria, Somnambula is a motivational speaker and meditation guru. In the Hayseed Swamp, Mage Meadowbrook sells potions and remedies out of her home/health clinic. Even Stygian has found moderate success as a best-selling novelist. Seeing how well his old friends have adjusted to living in modern-day Equestria, Rockhoof feels more miserable and out of place than ever.

A job as General Seaspray’s Hippogriff Navy goes awry when using the stars to guide the way does not take into account rocks in the ocean. And yes, I’m not sure why the Hippogriffs need a Navy when they can turn into sea ponies, either.

Rockhoof is miserable to the point where he asks Twilight to cast a spell to turn him to stone (because we can’t say assisted suicide on a TV-Y show). However, Yona, inspired by Rockhoof’s stories, reads him her essay about how she felt she didn’t fit at the school at first, but has since made close friends. Rockhoof suddenly has an audience when he decides to finish the story.

Seeing this, Twilight make him the Official Keeper of Tales in Equestria. She’s a Princess, don’t question it. Rockhoof finally has purpose in the modern world.

Here is one of the more surprising episodes in the series. Much like “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” took a darker tone with its topic of self-torture to relieve past pains, this is pretty much as close as this show will get to hinting at suicide much like “Tanks for the Memories” used hibernation of a pet in lieu of death of a loved one.

Much as I feel that Steven Universe can tell its stories in 22-minute episodes (read: “Bismuth”) even though it sticks to 11-minute episodes, MLP could well have episodes that deal with touchy topics with a semblance of maturity if given the chance. That was one area that puts Mister Rogers and even Arthur in a class of their own, but I need to get back on track with the episode in question.

There really isn’t that much wrong with this one and it’s in the top tier for this season. It’s about someone trying to find their place in the world after a seemingly long time away from it and that one should keep trying instead looking for a way to leave it. It’s nice to see all the Pillars again, though you do wish they were able to help more. However, we do get a nice save from Yona and by extension the Young Six who were actually enthused by his stories.

We’ve had some good character moments this season, we just needed some better stories and this episode fits the latter.


PS: Since a series continuity error has been brought to my attention on “The Washouts”, I have to downgrade my grade on that episode to a B.

MLP Review: The Washouts

The episode begins with Scootaloo fast-tracking the meeting of the Rainbow Dash Fan Club with a new Washouts fan group—which makes an eavesdropping Rainbow Dash worried that she has competition as someone Scoot looks up to. The Washouts are a group of former Wonderbolt Academy Cadets who specialize in more extreme stunts with no regard for safety.

The Washouts are of course being led by Lightning Dust, in her first appearance on the show in 130 episodes, and who is apparently as bitter as Johnny is in “Cobra Kai”. Lightning Dust founded the Washouts to fulfill her disregard for safety and the strict rules and regulations of the Wonderbolts.

When an opening comes up, Scootaloo is interested, but Rainbow Dash throws a block. Rainbow takes her to Wonderbolts HQ so that Spitfire can go into full “Matt Foley” mode to dissuade Scootaloo from joining the Wonderbolts and drop out so she could join the Washouts.

Scootaloo is not discouraged and joins the Washouts. She also says she gave up in trying to following in Rainbow’s hooves because she can’t fly. Scootaloo wants to do stunts with her scooter. However, the stunt Lightning Dust has in mind for Scootaloo, now that she knows that the latter is forming a Washouts fan club, is something Evel Knievel wouldn’t even try in his heyday. Dash saves Scootaloo from the stunt while Lightning Dust blasts off like Team Rocket and proclaims her lifelong rivalry with Rainbow Dash.

In the meantime, Rainbow Dash forms the “Scootaloo Fan Club” with Dash’s parents as members.

Here, the lesson is that Dash needed to let Scootaloo make her own decisions and can only be a great role model for her. That also means allowing her to learn from making the wrong decisions. Following a team of stunt ponies with no regard for safety clearly falls into that category. Scootaloo’s following of a pony other than Dash also calls attention to Dash’s own insecurities about someone upstaging her.

It’s a good episode with a good lesson even though there were some extraneous elements such as Pinkie’s cupcakes and why Twilight would be interested in the Washouts. Then there is Spitfire. Evidently, Nick Confalone was watching a DVD of the Best of Chris Farley (RIP) on Saturday Night Live when figuring out how to incorporate Spitfire into this episode. Anyone who watched SNL during the 1990s would enjoy that scene. If you did not, it was cringeworthy.

So it’s a good Dash and Scootaloo episode, though some things were a bit extraneous and one bit was greatly exaggerated—and I’m not talking about the stunts (which you should NEVER try anywhere).



MLP Review: “Road to Friendship”

In a brilliant ode to the Road Trip movies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Starlight and Trixie go on a road trip to Saddle Arabia. It’s similar to “Pinkie Apple Pie” in its setup, but it’s Starlight looking forward to a road trip with her best friend Trixie and her cramped caravan that must be her home—though they don’t really specify why Trixie prefers her caravan to the most spacious one from the Saddle Arabian Hoo’Far.

It is a straightforward story that is an ode to the Crosby-Hope “Road to…” pictures of the 1940s and 1950s. The song was the highlight as Starlight and Trixie play off each other in comedic fashion mixed with the usual problems encountered in a road trip episode such as finding a room, going off budget, etc.

Starlight and Trixie attempting a friendship chant like Twilight’s and Cadance’s was also hilarious. The appearance of Hoo’Far during each scene was timely. The one issue I have besides not giving a specific explanation as to why Trixie does not want to part ways with her caravan is that Starlight indeed had no right to trade it away in the first place. Outside of that, the episode is a continuation of the slow, but certain improvement of the episodes as Season Eight, for those following the US broadcast schedule, winds down.



MLP Review: The End in Friend

We have an interesting question in class asked by the Young Six: How can two ponies with very divergent interests such as Rarity and Rainbow Dash be friends? Rarity and Rainbow Dash have a hard time answering that question themselves as Rarity is more concerned with uniforms than catching the ball in buckball while Rainbow Dash is every person ever waiting on someone shopping for footwear. (I know Applejack is the cowgirl, but Rarity has worn cowgirl boots much more often on the show.) Things come to a head in the gem mine when Dash wants to go treasure hunting while Rarity is looking at the gems and appear to wreck Twilight’s lesson.

Both are called into Starlight’s office and she suggests putting themselves in the other’s shoes (not necessarily Rarity’s boots which could be an opportunity for Hasbro or Build-A-Bear). Rarity is given a “Daring Do” book while Rainbow Dash is given a “Shadow Spade” book—neither one reads the other’s book.

Cue the contrived missing artifact for Rainbow Dash and Rarity to find and learn something new from each other. We meet a new creature in a Bufagren and Rarity creates toothpaste that freshens its breath. The trail of blue glitter (not the magenta glitter from Rarity’s boots) leads to Spike who had the amulet all along. And that’s our lesson for today every creature!

I like how this is turned into a friendship lesson for the Young Six as it fits the theme of the season. It also gives us a chance to see the (}no pun intended) rare dynamic between Rainbow Dash and Rarity. It’s also good that they show it is normal for friends to disagree and banter from time to time.

This could well have been a recycle of a Season One episode (“Look Before You Sleep” in particular), but it’s saved by the fact that it is wrapped around teaching a lesson to the Young Six. The only issue I have is that you can tell that this quest was a setup, especially if you recognize the school’s symbol on the door. Outside of that, this is still a good episode as it continues a string of them.



MLP Review: Friendship University

After hearing from Starswirl the Bearded and his travels, Twilight learns about a place in Las Pegasus called Friendship University that promises that you can learn friendship in half the time as Twilight’s school. Twilight and Rarity investigate and find that it’s being run by the Flim-Flam brothers and they get EEA accreditation from Neighsayer because Season Finale setup.

Rarity and Twilight go undercover to find evidence of the scam and the latter (with a poor disguise) gets caught breaking in while the former blends in because she had a better disguise. They discover that the while tuition is free, the worksheets are not and they are funding the Flim Flam’s resort expansion. Not necessarily illegal, but it is certainly unethical and certainly a shot at for-profit education. Something the Flim-Flams did that is illegal was plagiarize Twilight’s school guide. Starswirl, who was a student at the school, tells them to return the money to the students and shut down the university.

So yes, this is quite a preview of the season finale with Neighsayer challenging Twilight and the hinting of Cozy Glow as subtle a a brick through a window.

The episode itself is good, though points off because Twilight’s disguise leaves a lot to be desired while Rarity again steals the show. Surely she could have done better for Twilight’s disguise. Outside of that, we do get a good lesson in standing up for one’s beliefs even though it means risking your reputation. Overall, what this episode does is to provide some setup for the Season Finale.



MLP Review: “A Matter of Principals” and “The Hearth’s Warming Club”

Before they aired “Yakity-Sax”, there was half the season gone and half the season to go. The second half of Season Eight starts in earnest with two episodes—both a step up from that monstrosity.

“A Matter of Principals”

Discord likes testing ponies. Starlight is the target as he sends the Mane Six on a wild goose chase and makes life hard for the interim head mare since he got passed over. We also learn that smart-watches and long-distance plans are now canon. Starlight is a tougher nut to crack than most while Discord was being a bit too jerky like he was in “Make New Friends But Keep Discord”.

Some of the gags were funny, some of the cameos were great, but the episode does suffer a bit from Discord’s antics. Starlight finally tones done Discord by apologizing for flatly rejecting his “help” in the first place (though fans would have approved of her zapping Discord). Also good is that Starlight learning that magic does not solve all problems—especially miscreant draconequeses.


“The Hearth’s Warming Club”

We’re going Breakfast Club for this one, but thankfully neither Twilight, nor Rainbow Dash ends up like Assistant Principal Vernon. The comparisons to the actual ‘Club’ do not really work here since there were five of them and we have six in this episode. (OK, maybe Gallus is Bender).

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. With the theme of the season, it does give everyone a chance to tell holiday stories from back home. Ocellus’s was great. Yona’s was good and everyone thought we would be in for a running gag at that point. Smolder’s was…..original. Silverstream’s was terrific. Sandbar’s story was the kind of story either Hamton from Tiny Toons or PBS’s Between the Lions would tell.

That leads us to Gallus. It’s actually sad, yet understandable that he grew up in a culture where friendship is virtually non-existent. Even their “holiday” is more of tolerance than anything. Gallus is having a better experience with the rest of the Young Six at the School and didn’t want to let go of it even for a couple weeks, so that’s why he pranked the tree.

This was actually a nice episode and give something of a backstory to some of the Young Six and how other cultures in the MLP world celebrate holidays. Though, one has to wonder why this episode is airing in August. Then again, of the four Hearth’s Warming Episodes, just one originally aired in December (“Hearth’s Warming Eve”). Then again, there is a Holiday Special on the way after the season.



MLP Review: Yakity-Sax

For the first time since May 6, 2011 (Best Night Ever), a new episode aired on a Friday. That’s about the only significant thing there is about this episode. In the episode, Pinkie Pie begins playing a new instrument called a yovidaphone. Much like every bagpipe gag in every Warner Brothers cartoon there is one, Pinkie is not that good at it.

Her friends tell her to stop playing and she does. Pinkie is fully deflated she loved that instrument so much in this episode. She is so deflated that she cannot be cheered up in Ponyville and moves to Yakyakistan to hear the yovidaphone fo happiness. That doesn’t work, but her friends coaxing her to play once again despite her not being good at it (so everypony thinks) does.

This episode may have been better served if the lesson were “practice makes perfect” or if Pinkie really did get better by the end of the episode instead of what we saw. It’s a gag as old as time where a character is poor at an instrument and/or singing and his or her friends try to go end around with being honest. This show usually does a good job of supplying something fresh to something cliche, but not in this case.

It needed to take a better tack knowing how Pinkie can easily get depressed if she feels rejection and also minus points for Twilight suggesting something similar to what she tried in “Horse Play”. In short, this was not a good episode.