Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 1 Episode 11

Episode plots, okay at most, but sometimes dipping below mediocre.  Pacing, check... for most of them, anyways.  Characters, still somewhat below average because of their friendship skills (Applejack still reigns supreme as my personal favorite and she's cool).  Animation, double check!  Still superior above all else.

"So what else is new?"

Well, there's at least one new thing in this episode, the Chazz.  Let's go check it out!

"I can hardly wait."

Winter Wrap Up
It's Winter Wrap Up Day in Ponyville, which apparently means every denizen in Ponyville gets up at the crack of dawn to help clear away the season of winter and pave the way for spring.  Again, it's obvious now that in Ponyville, Mother Nature doesn't exist, meaning the denizens have to do all the hard work that normally comes around naturally.  Now Spike interestingly wonders why magic can't just simply be used to get the job done a whole lot easier.

Spike: Don't they just use magic to change the seasons like they do in Canterlot?
Twilight Sparkle: No Spike, Ponyville was started by Earth ponies, so for hundreds of years they've never used magic to clean up winter. It's traditional.
Spike: It's ridiculous. No magic...
Twilight Sparkle: It's a good thing I'm so organized, I'm ready.
Organized, hm?  That sounds like me.

Okay, so we learn how everyone in Ponyville is needed to do certain jobs to make the transition between seasons... by listening to a musical number.  That's right.  For the first time in the series, we get to hear other characters sing besides just Pinkie Pie.  I wouldn't count Fluttershy two episodes ago because it wasn't her real voice.  So here's the song.

Winter Wrap Up! Winter Wrap Up!
Let's finish our holiday cheer
Winter Wrap Up! Winter Wrap Up!
'Cause tomorrow spring– 
[Rainbow Dash]
–is here!
'Cause tomorrow spring is here!
All right, it's time to roll out the questions and such again.  First of all, Twilight's singing voice is provided by Rebecca Shoichet, Canadian voice actress and singer, notably known for her roles as Mayura Labatt from Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and Sota Higurashi from InuYasha.

[Twilight Sparkle]
The time has come to welcome spring
And all things warm and green
But it's also time to say goodbye
It's winter we must clean
How can I help? I'm new, you see
What does everypony do?
Now I remember Tara Strong, the speaking voice of Twilight, as the voice of Melody from The Little Mermaid II:  Return to the Sea, both speaking and singing, and her singing voice back then wasn't that bad.  It was quite good actually, considering she sang in three of the four songs in the film.  So, was there any particular reason why she couldn't do the singing voice of Twilight?  Is her singing voice not as good as it was 10 years ago?  What?  Well, it turns out that since this series is made in Canada and Tara Strong is currently a resident of America, she doesn't have access to Daniel Ingram's song lyrics, so... I think the rest explains itself.

No easy task to clear the ground
Plant our tiny seeds
With proper care and sunshine
Everyone it feeds
Apples, carrots, celery stalks
Colorful flowers too
We must work so very hard
[Applejack, Cherry Berry, and Golden Harvest]
It's just so much to do!
Is it just me, or does Applejack seem to lose her Southern accent while singing?  Well, not only is this one of the longest songs in the entire series, but Twilight's lyrics state pretty much what we should have already gathered from the beginning of the episode.

[Twilight Sparkle]
How do I fit in without magic?
I haven't got a clue!
[Twilight Sparkle]
How will I do without my magic
Help the Earth pony way
Okay, I get it, Twilight.  You're trying to fit in as an Earth pony for one day.  We get it.  Once is quite enough.  So Twilight tries to fit in wherever she can.  Now here's a question.  Why didn't she just ask the Mayor what she could do to help?  I mean, there's no such thing as a stupid question, right?  Just waltz right up to her and ask her if you fit in anywhere!  Is that difficult?

Oh, and here's another question.  Didn't Twilight say right at the beginning of the episode that she was organized?  Why can't she just use those skills to help out in some way?  Did she not think of that possibility?  For the record, Twilight Sparkle in this episode is not thinking clearly.  First she asks Rainbow Dash, which is dumb, considering she's not a Pegasus but a unicorn, so Rainbow has to tactfully remind her that she can't.
She then tries to help Rarity make a bird's nest, which turns out to be rather unsuccessful.
Next, she offers to help Pinkie melt the ice by doing tactical ice skating somehow.  Of course, since it's her first time ice skating, this doesn't work out well either.  Now despite Twilight's friends trying to be supportive of her apparent lack of skill, I think they're just being a little too polite about it.  It's almost lying.

Now here's a bit of a surprise.  The animal team leader is not Fluttershy as some of us would like to think, but rather none other than Amethyst Star, who you may remember seeing briefly in the very first episode.  And when she has a speaking role later in the series (and by later I mean Season 2), she's voiced by Cathy Weseluck, who as you know also voices Spike.
But back to this episode.  Twilight offers to help Fluttershy wake up the animals, but she ends up getting spooked by snakes (she's Indiana Jones!), which subsequently leads her to getting freaked out by bats, stung by bees, and then sprayed by skunks.
She ends up getting a bath in tomato juice, which normally would be poisonous for horses and ponies, but considering Twilight isn't technically either of them, I guess the writers could get away with this.  Now at this point, Spike actually suggests using magic despite knowing it would break traditional rules.  So of course Twilight refuses.

Finally, things go downhill when she offers to help Applejack plow away the snow.  Now Applejack does not believe Twilight is physically strong enough, but Twilight insists that she still wants to help nonetheless.  But as expected, she can't get the plow to budge.
That's when she finally gives in to Spike's advice and seems to do just fine.  That is, until her magic somehow spirals out of control and she can't stop the plow.
In the end, she just ends up making a colossal mess.  Way to go, Twilight.  Some help you are.  Well Applejack gets fed up and scolds Twilight for using magic, adding on that it didn't help in the slightest.  But what does Spike say?

Spike: The nerve. Can you believe her?

Spike, you realize you just contradicted everything you said about using magic, much less your own suggestion to Twilight?

Well seeing that she flubbed four times already, the last time being a real doozy, Twilight now feels utterly useless and figures the best way to help out is to stay out of everyone else's way.
That's when we learn from the Mayor that in every single previous year, spring was always late due to arguments and the Ponyville denizens being disorganized.  Twilight now rises to the dilemma and discovers what I already figured is her best place to fit in, being organized.  Pfft, I could have told her that.  If she had just figured that out earlier, and she had that opportunity, so lay off me before you start...

With Twilight's new-found help and the denizens working ceaselessly all night, Winter Wrap Up is completed only just in time and spring arrives for the first time ever in Ponyville on time.  Twilight is commended by the Mayor and is named the "All-Team Organizer" for her endeavors.  Lookin' good, Twilight.  I just wish you had figured this out earlier, that's all I'm saying.  And of course, the episode wraps up with its usual friendship lesson letter to Princess Celestia, with Twilight stating how much she learned from the experience.

I'd say this episode was pretty much mediocre at most, like some of the previous episodes.  There's a bit of repetitiveness topped off with Spike being a hypocrite once and he didn't have to be.  However, it does have the first true musical number in the series, which is roughly the average length of a pop song.  But the series Phineas and Ferb has much more musical numbers, even though they're shorter in length for time reasons, so to be honest, I'd pick their songs over the ones in this series.  And as always, terrific use of animation, with emotions and drama that mix well with anime-style.

So... what next?

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