Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 54: Roundup Without an Interesting Name

I keep meaning to make a small post about the particular challenges of being a British ponyfic writer, such as trying to convince your mostly-American commenters that yes, "furore" is correct, but that's going to have to wait until I stop being so lazy. :P Instead, you get this week's Ponyfic Roundup, which is another lucky dip of short (and shortish) stories. Here are the six stories I've chosen to review this time around:

A World Without Kindness by billymorph
Civil Twilight by PresentPerfect
Listen by Taialin
The Mane 6 vs. the Islamic State by CategoricalGrant
Mr. Brannigan's Ghosts by Moose Mage
Simply Rarity by Somber

Monday, 27 April 2015

Episode review: S5E05: "Tanks for the Memories"

Rainbow Dash does a Grinch face
Then Dash thought of something she hadn't before...
Cindy Morrow is back! Okay, the last episode she wrote for Friendship is Magic ("Apple Family Reunion") wasn't a favourite, but no writer who came up with the outstanding "Hurricane Fluttershy" is one I'd want to lose permanently from the My Little Pony squad. This time around, we knew we were going to be looking at the Dash/Tank relationship and that M. A. Larson had promised Hasbro he'd take responsibility for... well, for something. Let's see how that turned out.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Comic mini-review: Fiendship is Magic #4: Nightmare Moon

MLP Nightmare Moon Fiendship is Magic comic cover

This has been one of the most eagerly awaited Fiendship comics, because Heather Nuhfer was the writer behind the well-received "Nightmare Rarity" arc from long ago. Tony Fleecs handles the art and Heather Breckel does the colouring. So, expectations were high... but sadly not really fulfilled. The Nyx (who I like to think are so named purely to troll the fandom) don't really catch the attention and Nightmare Moon herself doesn't live up to her own hype. Fleecs' art is decent (though I could really have done without the gremlin) but this issue has the same problem as last week's Sirens comic: it doesn't make the most of a potentially fascinating setup. Surprising and disappointing given Nuhfer's role. Oh, and two horrible typos, too. ★★

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 53: The Long and the Short of It

I'm finally reading my copy of G. M. Berrow's Princess Celestia and the Summer of Royal Waves. One not-really-spoilery point of interest: the real Clover the Clever was male. Fanfics seem to have been divided on this issue, but absent confirmation in the show itself I think this counts as canon for now. Anyway, as this week's subject line suggests, this time around I'm reviewing... well, long and short fics. Two of the former; four of the latter. Here's the list:

The Birds and the Bees by Scantrel
Discord's Day by SpinelStride
Eljunbyro by Imploding Colon (yes, finally!)
A Diamond and a Tether by PatchworkPoltergeist
No, I Am Not A Brony, Get Me Outta Equestria! by BronyWriter
Spring is Dumb by HoofBitingActionOverload

Monday, 20 April 2015

Episode review: S5E04: "Bloom and Gloom"

Apple Bloom dreaming of a derelict clubhouse
"Prisoner in the dock, you are charged with having excessively cute eyes"
Season 5 has really pleased me so far. We've had a dark-tinged premiere that was like nothing Friendship is Magic has seen before, followed by a charming slice-of-life episode that felt like a S1 ep transported four years into the future. Now we have the season's first CMC story, and it's written by Josh Haber. He was responsible for "Castle-Mania", which was fun but not very Pony; "Simple Ways", which was meh apart from Tabitha St. Germain's voice work; and "Leap of Faith", which was the dullest key episode. So, can "Bloom and Gloom" keep S5's successes going? Read on!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Comic mini-review: Fiendship is Magic #3: The Sirens

Sirens Fiendship is Magic comic front cover

This is the only one of the Fiendship issues not to feature a villain from the show, which makes it an interesting choice. Anyway, this comic was written by Ted Anderson, drawn by Agnes Garbowska and coloured by... oh, you know by now. As for whether it's a good one... I hate to say it, but no, not really. There are some nice touches: the classically-themed "old Canterlot" is fun and it's nice to see a young Star Swirl, even if his decision-making is suspect at times. But the villains themselves are disappointing, nowhere near as enjoyable as they are in Rainbow Rocks itself. Bluntly, these Sirens are boring. Not a complete disaster, but certainly the least impressive Fiendship comic yet. ★★

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 52: Special Edition

I am immensely amused that Holby City had a brief scene mentioning ponies and bronies. (There was a reference to a "rare Spanish Sonata Dusk" toy, though I've no idea whether such a thing exists.) If you can use the BBC iPlayer, the episode is up there until 14th May; the scene starts around 02:15.

Anyway, it's Ponyfic Roundup time! Yes, I'm back to doing this stuff. And I think it's time I reviewed a longer fic again. This one was recommended to me by a friend, and (being the out-of-touch person I am) I'd never heard of it until then. So, without further ado:

Mother of Invention by zaponator
Adventure; 157K words; Dec 2012–Jul 2014; Teen
Applejack awakes on a deserted beach, with no idea how she got there. Over the course of the story, we follow her explorations of her strange surroundings, and start to uncover some of the secrets of her unwanted new home. An interesting but odd story – in fact, it's more like several stories. The first quarter is very slow-paced, but things do eventually pick up a good deal. Then there's a major twist about three-quarters of the way through, about which I had very mixed feelings. Applejack's name is repeated too often and the song-title chapter names are mildly annoying, but this is well worth a look, and not only for AJ fans. ★★★

More detailed, and spoilery, comments past the break!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Comic mini-review: Fiendship is Magic #2: Tirek

 Cover of the Tirek Fiendship is Magic comic

Next up in the Fiendship is Magic mini-series is Tirek, who probably sticks in most people's mind much more than Sombra has done. This is a comic that's interesting and frustrating in equal measure. Tony Fleecs' art is perhaps his best work yet in Pony, and Heather Breckel colours with aplomb as usual, but Christina Rice's story is... well, it's only half a story. We see the start of Tirek's tale, but at the end of the comic it feels like the really interesting part still lies before us. Also, was the name "Sendak" a reference? It really jumped out at me. The comic is fine as far as it goes; it just doesn't go far enough. Scrapes a ★★★.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Episode review: S5E03: "Castle Sweet Castle"

Lotus and Twilight at the spa
"So, you really think I have a shot at the Johnny Bravo role?"
Last week's Season 5 premiere made a very good start to the new season: it was fairly meaty, quite dark (by this show's standards), full of great one-liners and intriguingly open-ended. Oh, and wonder of wonders, Pinkie Pie felt right. This week we're back to the one-parters that are MLP's bread and butter. "Castle Sweet Castle" is co-written, by newcomers Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco. I didn't much care for the co-written episodes last year (and I liked S4) but the S5 finale made it work, so what about this time round?

Friday, 10 April 2015

Richie Benaud

This post has nothing to do with MLP at all, but I beg your indulgence just this once. As those who know me well will know, I am very much into cricket, and tonight we've been told of the death of Richie Benaud. Like most fans of the sport, I grew up with Benaud's commentary being the "voice of cricket", though I'm too young to remember his equally impressive career as an all-rounder for Australia. There'll never be another Richie. RIP.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Comic mini-review: Fiendship is Magic #1: King Sombra

Cover of Fiendship is Magic #1

There's absolutely no way I'm going to be able to manage April's Fiendship is Magic villains event if I try to do full-scale reviews, so I'll stick to minis. This first issue got the series off to a very good start. The backstory was new and interesting, including the odd hint about Cadance, and Sombra's corruption made a reasonable amount of sense. It was also satisfyingly dark: there's one scene where (as Jeremy Whitley has said) it's obvious Hasbro insisted on a character not actually dying, but otherwise this is a much more rounded look at Sombra than we ever got in the show. Brenda Hickey's art and Heather Breckel's colours are both excellent, and this comic is well recommended. ★★★★

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Episode review: S5E01/02: "The Cutie Map"

Starlight Glimmer and Party Favor
"Now, ponies, where should I put Party Favor's brain?"
Sorry for the lateness here, folks: a number of circumstances conspired against me. I'm not intending to take quite so long with episode reviews in future! Anyway, after a billion years of waiting, Season 5 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is upon us. The opener, whose title was changed from "Cutie Markless" at a late stage, is a two-parter, written by Scott Sonneborn and M. A. Larson from a story by Meghan McCarthy. I haven't often been impressed by co-written episodes, so how would this one fare? Beyond the cut, you'll find out!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

So, Hasbro, about those new songs...

All right, so it seems that Hasbro thinks "April Fool" means "release three new fully-animated songs out of nowhere". I suppose I can live with that. Mind you, I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of "Life is a Runway", which is a shame as I've usually really liked Rarity songs. I don't dislike it; I just feel it's a bit on the bland'n'generic side. A more accomplished version of some of the songs in the first film, if you will. Points for Derpy's outfit, though.

I like "My Past is Not Today" rather more, though that may be at least in part because I'm such a fan of how Sunset Shimmer's character was developed in Rainbow Rocks. The song itself is good without being spectacular; it's the animation that really makes this one stand out. The sunset scene early on is particularly nice, especially when you think that they could just have shoved in a generic lens flare effect and had done with it.

And then there's "Friendship Through the Ages", which I love to bits already. All right, one or two of the transitions from pony to pony are slightly awkward, but it's still made me smile more than any song since... well, "Shine Like Rainbows", actually. It doesn't hurt that Fluttershy finally gets a little vocal solo; I've been waiting so long for that! Rarity makes use of her Sgt. Pepper outfit, Dash has a Union Flag sticker on her guitar, Pinkie's 80s spot is hilarious, etc etc etc.

What with this little lot and the Sombra comic and the S5 premiere, this is turning out to be one hay of a first week of April for the official side of the pony fandom!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 51: In a Change to Our Published Programme...

I seem to be slowly on the mend now, but I've been thrown off course enough that I haven't been able to read the fics I was planning on reviewing this week. Instead, here are a few that I've read over the last couple of days. Since I was still feeling a bit unwell, I thought I'd read fics that seemed to have a decent chance of being enjoyable. I read four, and it worked out quite well. Here's the list, in the order I read the stories:

Customer Disservice by Estee
The Glass Blower by Cold in Gardez
Beneath your feet, what Treasures by TheJediMasterEd
Of Angels by PaulAsaran