MLP:ER- Friendship is Magic

Well the cable company decided to screw with my TV last Friday so instead of a SPN review… let’s talk about ponies!

The first two part episode for MLP:FiM titled – fittingly enough – Friendship is Magic is a strong start to the series.  Something I was surprised to see when I was rewatching it here was that while this show repeats some things (such as the revelation that Luna is Celestia’s sister – even though Twilight should have known about it already judging from the episode opener), there are more subtleties to the show than at first glance.  For instance, in one scene Twilight is reading off the elements of harmony as the camera pans over her five friends; the timing on the element and which character it matches syncs up perfectly.  It is a nice touch, a way to reinforce the themes of the episode without beating the audience over the head with it.

If there were any complaints, it’s that maybe the opener was a bit too much, too soon?  I think it could have been stronger had the first and second parts separated by the season (well, obviously delay the release of Nightmare Moon for the finale).  As it is, the bonding and uniting seems a little rushed and too convenient.  Plus in light of later episodes, it would make more sense for each of the “mane six” to have a spark of their respective elements at the start, but then refine and improve that element through the stories.

Of course, first thing, we should get the elephant in the room out of our way.  How to put this…

Ah, best quote Cracked:

And now we’ve reached rock bottom of our insultingly incapable heroes. This is a pretty cruel trick society played on the little girls of the world who saw these cartoons and played with the toys.

While boys were taught that evil giant transforming robots could only be defeated with other giant transforming robots, girls were taught that evil could be defeated with the power of rainbows and flamboyant song and dance. Which one better prepared their audience for the real world? If you’d like to find out, go perform a choreographed song and dance number in the middle of the highway while a semi bares down on you. In your final moments of consciousness, imagine how much more terrifying this would all be if that semi was sentient.

There is a rather persistent belief that girls shows can be… less than realistic (whereas boy shows have giant robots in them) when it comes to conflict resolution.  And well, if you’re faced with a giant robot, you probably should look for other giant robots to help. (or build your own!)  While violence can be necessary at times in life, sometimes a dance choreography can be as well (or in this episode, a song by Pinkie Pie).  Like man dichotomies in life (men/women, old/young, liberal/conservative) it’s best to think of both sides as the gas & brake pedal on a car.  If you try to have only one, you won’t get to your destination.

Plus, in this opening episode, FiM lets us know that it won’t be as lame as all those OTHER MLP series.  At the end of the day, what wins?  A team and a BFRG (Big Friendly Rainbow Gun) – which is applicable throughout life (especially the military).  Like all proverbs “fight vs talk” isn’t a hard rule of life, but a tool requiring wisdom for proper deployment.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting that in this episode, we never see Nightmare Moon attacking the mane six directly. (after all, if she could put a thorn in a manticore’s paw, why not just stab the ponies in the heart?)  However, one should remember that part of what made Luna fall was a lack of appreciation.  Even when she returns, she addresses the crowd as “my beloved subjects”.  It’s all but spelled out for us that she wants to stop the heroes without killing them, since that would be 6 less ponies appreciating and praising her (well, until the food ran out because of the eternal night).

Animation wise, I was a big fan of Samurai Jack during his travels so simplified, highly stylish designs kind of appeal to me.  While live action can do a lot more subtlety because we are used to reading the body language and minor facial cues of other humans, animation lacks these unconscious queues and so can sometimes be too subtle in trying to convey thoughts or emotions.  Thus, I think MLP:FiM made a good choice in keep things just a bit on the obvious side especially to help out their younger viewers.

Some might complain about the puns in the show, but I actually liked them.  In a world like MLP, it makes sense that a lot of human-centric phrases we use would be replaced with terms matching the dominant species.  It’s puns for the sake of puns (or humor) that’s a war crime.

Now keeping in mind that in Chuck’s grand tradition, each score is based upon the series as a whole (or so far).  Thus, for the opening I give this:

A pretty average episode, even being one that introduces us to… everything.  There are better and worse episodes out there, but for a series about talking horses, unicorns and pegasi aimed at little girls?

It’s pretty damn good.

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6 thoughts on “MLP:ER- Friendship is Magic

  1. As usual, Cracked misses the big f*ing point:
    Transformers is about giant robots. Works well comparing to simi on the highway.
    MLP is about dealing with people and people-related situations. Doesn’t work well with a simi on the highway, although it might work well for the driver of that simi. (Subtle sledgehammer over the head.)

  2. Nate, I’m also a Brony. I think DGD got in me into the show with his post defending Derpy (he’s also puzzled along with me over the enigma that is Cadence). With my philosophical proclivities, I found the moral messages in FiM compelling enough to launch myself into Aristotle’s two books on friendship in his Ethics. I was also inspired to start a series of posts reviewing FiM, though focusing more on the moral themes, along with a virtue/vice series focusing on the quirks of the “mane six”: (ex. Rarity on greed and generosity and Fluttershy on amiability, disagreeableness and being a “doormat”).

    I think the rushed friendship making in “Friendship is Magic” is due to the writers adopting a system where only the first two episodes of a season have any continuity. The rest of seasons one and two are episodic-like in the Star Trek: TOS manner. So, I guess they just had to have the “mane six” up-and-running by episode 2, even if it meant that Twilight Sparkle overlooking major differences between the “mane six” that would crop up eventually. If you look at this way, the conflicts in the rest of the series are mainly about “staying friends” instead of “becoming friends.”

    Now that you mention it, Princess Celestia should have warned Twilight about Luna/Nightmare Moon. Twilight is after all Celestia’s “personal pupil” and would have the chance to know all about Celestia’s past. Old ponies’ tale? Did the Celestia keep knowledge of Luna from Twilight? For all I know, PC planned for Twilight to battle PL/NM (by sending TS to Ponyville to “make some friends”) in the same way Dumbledore grooms Harry Potter to fight Voldermort.

    Yes, Luna does seem mightily upset with her bad PR; that might partly explain her goth look.

    I hope you get to review other episodes.

  3. I have heard, though I don’t have it confirmed, that Faust originally wanted a seven-parter for the opening, but was forced to trim it down to a two-parter. I agree that the friend-making is rushed, but it is also tightly written: the first episode, in a mere 22 minutes, introduces seven main characters. Remarkably, the viewer can actually remember each character’s name and something important about her. That is some impressive writing.

    • That and the very stark animation designs and extreme personality differences help to further distinguish the characters in the viewers’ minds Which is good advice for writers: if you want to do an ensemble cast, make sure you make the more distinct from each other.

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