Nov 092011

Alright. Five episodes into My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

And the short of it? It’s OK, I guess.

The first two episodes do the usual introductory spiel while tossing in some obligatory conflict. At the request of the ruler of this pony-centric world, Twilight Sparkle moves to Ponyville to help with some lunar celebration. The catch is that Twilight has been tasked with “making friends.”

See, Twilight Sparkle is more than a little full of herself. She the sort that thinks intellectual pursuits can replace, well, just about everything. She’s downright apprehensive about making friends. She doesn’t need that shit so long as she can discover some obscure fact and prove herself to be intellectually superior to those around her. She’s like that Sheldon dude from Big Bang Theory if he was painted purple and got a sex change. I’m sure she’s gonna appeal to certain kids who can relate to that personality, so in that regard I can buy into the socially awkward smart girl who needs to “learn” how to make friends and stuff. But when it comes to being an adult watching this show, she’s already kinda grating on me. Since she’s the main character, that isn’t a good sign.

At least her unwanted friends are a good deal more tolerable. The first episode basically sets up each of the other five characters by having Twilight Sparkle run into each of them– sometimes literally. They’re all broad stereotypes– Applejack the cowgirl, Rainbow Dash the athlete, Rarity the diva, Fluttershy the hippie, and Pinkie Pie the comedian. You can take one look at each of them and know exactly what their shtick is gonna be. Between all of them you hit enough points and have a pony for almost any kid watching. These two episodes don’t delve into any of them far enough to really make any kind of judgement beyond stating one’s natural bias towards these types. That means Pinkie Pie seems to be a little too bubbly and loud for my tastes and Fluttershy makes me want to punt her into the uprights with her overt shyness. The others are pretty decent right off the bat, though.

So we get the main cast established right away. I dig that since we don’t spend a third of the season or so introducing the cast before things start to happen. I may not dig half the cast, but we got them right away so they can play off of each other right away. That’s a nice move.

But this fast-paced intro kinda makes the second episode feel a bit forced. Nightmare Moon comes down and lays the smack down on the world, declaring that the sun will never rise again and that the world will be cast in perpetual night. The six ponies band together, each gets a chance to save the day in the evil forest, and thus each of their strengths is brought to the forefront. That in and of itself is decent, so the kids can get a feel for the characters right away, but it’s the way all of this comes together that kinda sucks. It just so happens that each of these strengths represents one of the “five elements” that are needed to drive back Nightmare Moon. So we get a Final Fantasy-like crystal collecting thing going, where we have a pony for honesty, loyalty, laughter, kindness, and generosity. Combine them all Captain Planet-style and funnel them through Twilight Sparkle’s revelation that “FRIENDSHIP IS MAGICAL” and they put down the big bad super-quick. It’s a well-executed happy ending for the kiddies, but for a cynical bastard like me it was a little too convenient and easy.

With the intro out-of-the-way, I wasn’t really feeling it. I could see where a young girl would be fascinated by the whole thing. The show didn’t talk down to kids, and it presented just enough relatable characters, adventure, and other good stuff. But it’s decidedly made for kids who are new to this sort of stuff. There wasn’t a lot of the sort of self-awareness you see in some kids shows where things are happening just outside of the target audience’s awareness that people with a bit more knowledge and experience will get. It isn’t a matter of overt pop culture jokes and the like that you see in shit like Shrek that people end up calling “humor for the parents,” but there isn’t the sort of “see what we did here” gags and the like you see in a show like Adventure Time or a broader sense of humor that hits on multiple levels. That wasn’t really there in any of the episodes I watched.

As for those other three episodes, they were basically 30 minute morality plays. A situation comes up where the characters’ friendships are mildly threatened: Twilight Sparkle only has two tickets to a party and her buddies argue over who should go, Applejack refuses to accept her friends’ help with the harvest, and Rainbow Dash runs into an old friend who isn’t exactly friendly towards Dash’s other buddies. The party episode was the weakest of the five episodes I saw, since the gags that play out as the five friends compete for Twilight’s attention just didn’t quite work. I did like the way the episode ended, with Princess Celestia basically telling Twilight “Well, why didn’t you just ask for more tickets, you moron!?”

The other two episodes got progressively better, mainly because they were the first episodes where specific characters got some room to “breath” so to speak. They played out as you’d expect, with Applejack finally accepting help and with Dash realizing who her real friends are, but by centering on specific characters we finally got to see characters play off of one another, and that’s exactly what this sort of show needs to work. And these were the first episodes where the humor started to really work as well. They weren’t amazingly funny or anything, but there were some genuine laughs.

So yeah, as far as this being a kid show goes, it’s solid stuff. It isn’t condescending. It’s well-made, with the characters’ facial expressions being especially good. It’s downright good kids shit. But thus far I’m not seeing why adults like this show. I can appreciate it thus far, but I’m not seeing how the internet peeps caught onto this, especially based on how it started. Maybe that comes along later, but as-is the internet’s fascination with this series remains a mystery to me.

But I don’t hate it. Not yet at least. But I do kinda hate Twilight Sparkle. God damn, girl, making friends is not that painful. Especially when said friends are literally throwing themselves at your feet.

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