Dragonshy is an excellent episode, and the turning point wherein the series hits a stride that would bring it the renown it now knows. It prominently features all of the mane six ponies and almost no one else, gives them a lot of fun dialog and animation moments, and has an adventurous feel with a big payoff. The pacing is air-tight, there’s a tiny musical number, and it expands on the lore in what were big ways at the time.
In terms of analysis, there’s not much to say. It’s a super-straightforward episode, and most of the dialog is more humorous or expositional than character-building. What I can analyze, though, is why I would say this when the episode is actually the first of only a few big Fluttershy episodes, and the most important for establishing her character.
I’ve always felt that Fluttershy is the least interesting of the mane six ponies. It’s not that I don’t like her, but there’s not much to her character, and what’s there doesn’t catch my attention. It’s not that she isn’t deep or doesn’t develop—those aren’t the kind of things that I look for in characters. I think that Fluttershy and Applejack are the two ponies who are the easiest to understand without any kind of analysis—but Applejack is a ton of fun to me, whereas Fluttershy isn’t.
Dear Princess Celestia, where do I begin? Applebuck Season remains one of my favorite episodes of My Little Pony. As a person who really appreciates this show for the high density of things it has to offer, it would be correct to assume that the more I like an episode, the more things there are to say about it.
However, what makes this episode amazing is very straightforward. Whereas my enjoyment of Pinkie Pie episodes comes from analyzing her down to the core and finding the deeper meanings that the show can’t reach, my enjoyment of Applejack is as straightforward as her character. Applejack is my second-favorite pony after Twilight Sparkle, and both of them are the most straightforward, easily-understood characters in the show. The reason I love them is that their personalities are so enjoyable on a basic level. Probably because they both fail in such intense ways while being smart enough to realize it themselves.
All of the ponies fail in big ways: Pinkie Pie doesn’t understand other ponies’ way of thinking very well and has trouble empathizing with them (i.e. she can be a pest); also she’s probably got some kind of depression or anxiety disorder. Rarity and Fluttershy are both paranoid—Fluttershy reclusive and shy, Rarity bombastic and dramatic—and both of them tend to get pretty lost in their own heads. Rainbow Dash is full of herself and doesn’t think things through at all.
Before I start with this post, another shout-out to the excellent analysis of The Ticket Master by Misfortune-Dogged over on his own blog. In it, he compares the episode against a similar episode of My Little Pony Tales, and uses it to dissect what’s so interesting about the presentation of themes in Friendship is Magic. I won’t be restating much of what he said, so I recommend you read that post as well.
The Ticket Master begins innocuously with a conversation between Twilight and Applejack. Notice that when Spike reads the letter they get from Princess Celestia, he says that the Grand Galloping Gala takes place, “on the 21st of, yada yada yada.” A sneaky way of not making Equestria have the same months as the real world, as well as keeping the show from having a definitive timeline.
The presentation of the conflict between Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s reasons for going to the Gala is quite interesting. When I watched it the first time, I thought that the show was making Applejack out to have the better reasons, but in reality, the show doesn’t suggest anything like that. It presents both of their arguments on equal grounds—I was the one making the value judgement at the time, based on what little knowledge I had of the ponies and what they were suggesting about their ambitions.
This week’s MLP is among the funniest episodes of the show, and one of the tightest in terms of pacing and presentation, which makes it top tier for me. As much as I enjoyed the premiere, this episode is the more brilliant kick-off of the new season.
What makes it so tight? The concept is nothing new to cartoons—Pinkie Pie clones herself a bunch of times, quickly realizes why this was a bad idea, and then it’s up to her friends to figure out which one is the real Pinkie and destroy the fakes. It’s been done many times, including on Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, which was another Lauren Faust show (though I realize she’s no longer involved in MLP).
This episode succeeds because Pinkie Pie is the perfect character to have this happen to. It’s hardly surprising that she’d come up with the plan to clone herself, and it’s hard to doubt that she could do it. The idea even works as a character exploration, because Pinkie initiates this whole plan out of her inability to make choices. The result is exactly what the viewer expects from having too many Pinkie Pies, and rather than dwell on the chaos of the situation, the fun comes more from Pinkie’s one-of-a-kind reaction (doubting if she even is the real Pinkie Pie), and the reaction of her friends.
Over-arching statements out of the way, I feel the need to run through this episode chronologically and point out all the totally neat stuff in it.
I promise I’m not going to blog this whole show (nor, apparently, anything at all), but here’s some thoughts that might’ve been tweets if I felt like typing that many tweets.
1. I see people bringing up the lack of Karen for the most part, despite this being the Karen Bee book adaptation. I think the titles beyond the original Bakemonogatari arc titles are largely meaningless. Kabukimonogatari, for instance, is the “Mayoi Jiang Shi” arc, and Mayoi never appears in it at all.
2. I haven’t read the novels, but I think it’s interesting to look at the times that they came out. The original two Bakemonogatari novels came out in 2006, and then Nisioisin took 2007 to write all twelve Katanagatari books. Once that was through, he came back to the other -monogatari and has been steadily releasing an asston of novels since. Unlike the original Bakemonogatari, all of the other books only contain one arc. Those arcs still always contain a character’s name, but I strongly get the feeling that this doesn’t necessarily mean the arc is all about them—though knowing Nisioisin, the arc will probably tie into their ultimate fate somehow. By the way, there are like twelve damn books in this series. Between all of the stuff being adapted right now, it only covers the first five. There’s still so much to learn!
3. God I loved this episode. It brought back the horror element of the show, the dark and strange feeling of not knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, feeling that the characters may be in genuine danger, and not knowing what to expect. I feel that Nisioisin’s specialty is setting up a feeling with his long sections of conversation and hijinks, then subverting that feeling with action and twists. What will come of all this? Right now, I feel the one who’s the most dangerous is Hanekawa and the one in most danger is Senjougahara. But it could be anything.
Predictions are meaningless, but the uneasiness is the point.
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I don’t know why I’m surprised, but .hack//SIGN is already going down the shitter as of episode three. The art quality has taken a dive, the plot has screeched to a halt, and a whole lot of my time is being wasted.