Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day Seventy-six - My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2, or "Smart, sweet, endearing... there's a reason it's so popular."

Alright, I guess the big secret is out... I'm a Brony.

It shouldn't be too big a surprise... a good deal of the internet, at least in the places I haunt (like Reddit, Twitter, and StumbleUpon) tends to like it just as much as I do.

Still, I'd been staying away from blogging about it because my Netflix queue is big enough as it is, but two things changed my mind today.

One, I was in a sour mood thanks to yesterday's blog entry on The Great Happiness Space. While an interesting and thoughtful look into a subculture of adult entertainment in Japan, I couldn't help but feel depressed at my conclusions.

And two, I'd read this morning (on Reddit, no less) that MLP's truncated third season was just added to Netflix, following the footsteps of the previous season that was also posted rather quickly after it was finished. That's a bit of a Rarity for most shows as the corporations which own their rights usually wait until they've squeezed as much as they can out of first run DVD buyers before they release the latest season onto Netflix.

Profit margins and whatnot.

Personally, I think it's great that Hasbro puts them on to Netflix so quickly... it's a much better alternative for those of us who don't rent cable or satellite anymore and cannot legally find sources of the Hub.

Anyways, enough about that... let's talk about the pilot two-parter, eponymously named "Friendship is Magic, Parts 1 & 2."

To start things off, the opener features a uniquely styled fairytale introduction that obliquely tells how the universe of FiM works via mythology. I dig both the art and the method of this intro as it reminds me of so many world origin stories that I've read (and at least one that I've written) that treats the Ponys' beginnings as fantastical legend that we learn, later on in the episode, is truth.

After that brief bit, the art shifts from olden fantasy to a modern, almost anime style with big, expressive eyes and as anthropomorphic as ponies can get without losing their hooves for hands (poor Lyra). If I were to put it in terms your typical anime fanboi would use, the style is just overboard with kawaii and moe. 

In keeping with today's blog being a twofold reason, the thrust of both episodes is also dually purposed.

First, to introduce all of the main characters (also known as the Mane Six) to the audience and to each other as Twilight Sparkle, the nominal lead character of the troupe, is a transplant to the main setting town of Ponyville, sent there to prepare for the big summer solstice festival (another bit I love, paralleling our old sun rites).

And second, to take said Mane Six on a bonding adventure in order to defeat the villainous Nightmare Moon, who wishes to make the sun disappear and night to last forever. Along the way, each pony has a specific part to play which highlights each of their own particular qualities. It is both a heroes' journey and a moral allegory as, only by showing the aspects of honesty, loyalty, generosity, kindness, and delight, can the group pass their trials and serve themselves, their friends, and their country.

Of particular note is how the second part's journey into the dark and mysterious Everfree Forest (with it's trials) has shades of many old folklore fables like the Thorn in the Manticore's (Lion's) Paw. I could swear that I've heard versions of each and every trial that the Mane Six go through from mythologies past, sometimes multiple versions from many different cultures.

What's important here, though, is that the show manages to maintain and pass on these timeless stories in such a way that doesn't seem trite and obvious as other shows, like Veggie Tales (ugh), tend to. 

It's schmaltz... but it's also pretty close to perfect schmaltz.

In terms of both art and writing, MLP:FiM knocks it out of the park. It's accessible both to it's original target audience (young girls) and it's unintended primary audience (men and women in their 20's and 30's).

There's just something about how the show's creators (particularly the original showrunner Lauren Faust) took a dying franchise from the 80's and 90's and revamped it into something so cute and smart that I cannot keep myself from watching and enjoying the hell out of it.

Sure, I know folks who don't enjoy it and look at me (a thirty-something single man) with bemusement and probably a little bit of disgust for enjoying a show originally meant for pre-teen girls, but it doesn't matter. Just like I did, you have to look past your own initial prejudices and give this show a chance.

Maybe it's not for you, but I'd always put my money on the notion that it is, I have just that much confidence in the show's crossover appeal.

Oh, and... if you're still wondering what it's all about... maybe this might help a little.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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