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Aspiring writer, self-proclaimed hardcore gamer, adept of human psychology. Does not consider excessive pride for a vice.

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056 Frenemies Talk: Made in Manehattan feat. HapHazred · 4:54pm Oct 1st, 2015

056 Frenemies Talk: Made in Manehattan feat. HapHazred

Oh, Manehattan, what you did to me! You struck me with your lights and streets and the bustling city life, and only now I found time to post the review of this new episode! Wait, that's not true. I was actually busy watching the new Equestria Girls movie over and over again, because Sunset. Anyway, this time we've managed to get HapHazred for our review, someone whom you might know from his tireless admin work at The Writers Group and The Goodfic Bin (my two favorite groups on FIMFiction). Join us as we discuss the heroines of the episode, Rarity and Applejack, but also a bunch of other characters, events in Equestria, and of course the message itself that focusing on small good deeds that can change the world (the neighborhood-world, at least). Enjoy!

Applejack already knows that there are spoilers to S05EP16 on the other side of this street!

Coco ponders her decision of moving in with her friends as roommates. She never wanted to know some of their secrets.

Prane: The third episode of My Little Rarity: Friendship is Vogue turned out less thrilling than the two we’ve had so far. I feel that pairing Rarity with the minor character of Applejack was confusing to the audience, since she’s as far from the glamour of Canterlot as one can be. Moreover, giving a series of unsophisticated moans to a background alicorn character (I think her name was Twibright of something similar) wasn’t a good change of pace from the usual high society/fashion/celebrity drama that the series is all about. Overall, a rather average experience.

Alright, I’ll be serious now, but my judgment still stands. There were two major points in the episode that didn’t quite work for me. First, the way Rarity and AJ found about the event. Come on, having a leaflet fly by is as clichéd as a battle-worn dwarf coming to the tavern and telling a maudlin story about goblins and his brother’s mine - just when the heroes happen to be nearby! I wouldn’t find it unbelievable if Rarity and AJ simply came over Coco’s apartment and learned about the Midsummer Theatre Revival straight from the horse’s mouth. That’s a reasonable course of action while searching for a friendship problem, isn’t it? Finding a friendly local who’s bound to know much more about what’s buzzing in town.

My second gripe is about the conflict that resolved itself pretty much on its own. When I saw the stage crumbling into pieces thirteen minutes into the runtime, and the heroes were once again put in the dark, I felt that there won’t be any time to show them actually working towards solving the problem. In essence, all it took was AJ being good with hammers. Maybe I was expecting something along bringing back the Crystal Fair where they showed multiple ways of engaging the crystal ponies in the event. Unfortunately, the episode went with a good old routine of one person standing up (or in this case, three of them sitting down on the sidewalk), and then having everyone inspired and following their example. Can one good deed reanimate an entire neighborhood? In a perfect world, perhaps it can.

How about you guys? Was the episode a good fun for you? If yes, what stood out in the positive way? If not entirely, what would you change to make it better?

HapHazred: I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t already been spoiled for Rarity in the past two episodes, I think. As it was, Rarity’s eccentricities felt a little passé.

Personally, though, I still got some good mileage out of it if I do my best to think of it on its own, and I did find its moral worked on me, at least. It felt like it was a reminder that simplicity and small gestures is still something worth doing, so it strikes me as logical that there wouldn’t be any grand, flowery finale full of panache. And it’s true: it is much better to do something small than nothing at all. I can name a good number of people who were inspired to start something, like a fan-work, over just seeing an example of a five minute video or something being posted. Little things do inspire people, when effort and dedication went into them.

Maybe it’d have felt better if it didn’t come after an episode which did involve a fair amount of flair and colour (or absence thereof, as the case may be), but then again, I think episodes like this are something the show still needs. Whilst I enjoy high stakes and more explosive storylines, the show started a lot smaller, as small as spending time with a sibling and not being miserable about not doing as well as you hoped you would. I do like remembering some of those simpler lessons (even though I still love it when they go bigger with more ‘oomph’).

The only thing that bugged me, I guess, was, well, Coco. She’s very quiet, and it’s hard for me to pay attention to her when the spotlight is constantly being stolen by Rarity and Applejack. But all in all, I ended up liking this one, even if it’s not my favourite.

Gulheru: I think what really hurt the episode was its “positioning”. First of all, it is the third episode with Rarity having a major role. By itself it is not something dreadful, but I really think that one cannot forget that diversity of characters is what is so appealing about the series. We already could establish our dearest fashionista thanks to the two previous episodes. Putting her in a third in a row is a bit… monotonic.

Second of all, in comparison to the previous two episodes, one being the first after a longer break, having a nice tune of “Rules of Rarity” and a compelling new character of Sassy Saddles, the other giving us a unique esthetic of the “noir” kind, “Made in Manehattan” looked just… bland. And that is bad. Especially considering that it contained the focal point of this series - the Cutie Map sending our heroes to deal with a Friendship problem. And yet, I have found nothing that could stand out from the episode. It was like a definition of a “nice job”. Nothing dreadful, but most definitely nothing spectacular...

Why did a pony cross the road? To overcome her urbanophobia, and discover that dirt roads are more comfortable than those darn sidewalks!

HapHazred: Well, before anyone else does, I want to talk about the characters, since they’re pretty much what makes the show for me. I don’t know about everyone else, but I love MLP for it’s colourful, eccentric, and lovable cast of technicolour equines. This episode, we were treated to two of my favourites: Applejack and Rarity.

Like I mentioned above, Rarity had a bit of a handicap this time around seeing as I was getting a bit tired of her after two episodes devoted to her and her character. But even if I don’t take that into account, the more I think of her and Applejack in this episode, the more I kind of feel that Rarity was just a bit upstaged by Applejack. It’s Applejack who’s most uncomfortable in Manehattan. It’s Applejack who had the most struggle in terms of finding something to contribute to. Rarity, whilst far from an accessory, felt more like a foil. The pair clash wonderfully. I could watch Applejack’s eyebrow all day.

That’s kind of why I felt that, for the most part, they weren’t really all that separate. It was an Applejack and Rarity episode. For pretty much all of the journey (outside of Applejack’s little gardening escapade) they were always together, always a bit bickery, but always friendly. It was great to watch, at least for me.

But there were other characters I enjoyed too. I’m getting the feeling that a lot more body types are being used in MLP, and I think it makes a big difference. The amount of characters that had a real, tangible feel and identity to them made Manehattan feel more alive than any other city I’ve seen so far. I loved the thin, wealthy business-pony. I can remember the little chubby Derpy-like foal. There was an elderly pony watching the play, and a builder-pony. I can remember the actors. This is a great step up from previous seasons where I barely remembered the side-characters, manes were re-used and recycled endlessly, and had to get the fandom to remind me what their names are in fanon (I completely missed Vinyl and Octavia, Bon-Bon and Lyra and Whooves until I got involved in fanfiction, where their names became important).

Even if they were just side-characters with barely any lines, they made the city feel more colourful than any I’ve seen that my (admittedly terrible) memory can bring up.

But enough about me. What were your takes on the characters that populated this episode?

Gulheru: One matter that I simply have to bring up has been bugging me for some time and now I feel is a good time to address it. Yes, we are sometimes subjected to random characters bursting into the frame to tell the heroes something important, to push the plot forward, or to show and reveal how they have suddenly changed their ways thanks to the power of Friendship.

(By the way, it is codswallop. Nobody changes just like that. But the show has troubles with this issue since the very beginning.)

However, I have spotted that a significant part of those background or episodic characters have some sort of… I would call it “deformity”. The hat pony in this episode looked like he could assault you in a dark alley… and that you could give the Police a rather easy case of finding such a unique individual. More often than not we can hear a strange accent or a particular way of speaking (nasal tones, sigmatisms and the like). Also, it seems that stallions are subjected to having more peculiar anatomical disfigurements (you know those characters… Fluffy Clouds, Gizmo, Hayseed Turnip Truck… Tartarus, even Bulk Biceps started in such a way!). And, to be fair, it makes me scratch my head. Why, naturally, something must make those characters stand out during their five seconds of fame… or we must be shown that even characters like these can feel the power of Friendship. But it is a bit mind-boggling. Surely there are better ways of assuring that those “random encounters” are memorable. Why not just leave it to the storyline?

Prane: You’ve got me thinking, Hap. When I was watching the episode I must have been subconsciously thinking of it as a “Rarity episode” because of its sheer proximity to the big city life, Coco Pommel, and tackling non-apple related issues, but I guess it actually was a “Rarity and Applejack episode”, or perhaps even “Applejack and Rarity” one. After all, we didn’t get to see Rarity helping Coco with the dresses, but the gardening scene instead. It wasn’t Rarity who provided the ultimate solution, it was Applejack. From the uncertainty regarding her role to the moral itself, that all came from Applejack! My goodness, I was watching it the wrong way! I can’t be blamed, though, as Rarity is capable of stealing the show wherever she goes. Still, these two have come a long way together, and I can’t help not feeling old for remembering their silly conflict back in S1’s Look Before You Sleep. Now, can I have some Rarity/Fluttershy scenes (think Castle Mane-ia)?

The Manehattanians are a greatly diversified bunch indeed. It was great to see Grace Manewitz again and get some insight into Coco’s youth. As for Charity Kindheart, well, I’m glad that the classic adjective-noun naming convention from every video game ever has found their way into the setting. Now we’re free to name our OCs Shadow Nightblaze and tell we’re doing it to preserve the spirit of the show. I think my favorite new characters from the episode were the Discount Bon-Bon Mother Mare and her kid, with the Work Pony’s heartwarming “My pop used to bring me” coming a close second. The best part is he seems to have found himself a girlfriend, as he and the mare he sat by were holding hooves during the crowd scene!

"This is my secret Book of Exposition. Inside you'll find everything we need to kickstart the plot!"

Prane: Judging by the attendance at the Midsummer Theatre Revival, it seems that the ponies of Equestria love to participate. It doesn’t matter what’s happening. If there’s a reason to celebrate instead of being actually useful to the society, you can—forgive me—bet your boots they will go out there and have fun. They just have so many events! Big ones, off the top of my head: Grand Galloping Gala, Summer Sun Celebration, Nightmare Night. Local ones? Sisterhooves Social, Winter Wrap-up, Running of the Leaves. Add a couple of anniversaries, a convention here and there, and you’ll see that every day, or at least every week there’s a reason to meet, eat, drink, cheer, and party somewhere in Equestria. Are the calendars filled to the brim with such occasions? Unfortunately not. Through careful calculations some wise guys from Canterlot have come to a conclusion that there’s one week in the upcoming year that has no special event anywhere in Equestria. That means there will be a ten-something day hiatus between the events devoid of party time, and we all know that this is pretty much a disaster-level crisis by Equestrian standards.

That’s where you come in. One of the Princesses is asking you to establish a new event (or bring back some old and forgotten one) to be hosted on that fateful date. First you have to pick up the place. It can be a city, or a geographical point of interest. Then you have to choose a pony (main, background, the freedom is here) who will be the face of the event. Lastly, it would be great if you told something about the event so that the newspapers could write a proper announcement.

The fate of Equestria is in your keystrokes.

Gulheru: Ha, that is an intriguing task, but I think I have an idea.

Considering my “affiliation”, so to speak, I think I would be asked by Princess Luna to come up with something, so I believe I would decide to go with an occasion that would show our appreciation to the Lady of the Night, something a little more suave and distinguished than that strange Ponyville’s fool’s errand...

I would actually call it “The Silver Night”, I think it has a nice ring to it (and takes from the “white night festivals”, like the one in St. Petersburg). It would take place in Canterlot, once a year, when Princess Luna would make her Moon and the stars in the sky shine even brighter, while all of the other light-sources of Canterlot would be extinguished. She would be during that night available for meeting in person. Perhaps in the Royal Gardens, where the view of the sky would be magnificent and the greenery would provide a perfect setting. She would have unabated time to converse with her subjects, she might even give children lessons about the constellations and astral bodies. It would be an opportunity for the Equestrian folk to appreciate our Nocturnal Princess and express their gratitude for her continuous watch over the night and their dreams. She would have a chance to find more and more ponies being grateful for her work, even if she meets them after dark rather rarely. Oh, perhaps I could ask some of the Nightguard to join in, so that Equestrians would be able to learn something about their bat brethren. Of course, the celebration would end with Luna gracing us all with a little show of dancing stars, comets and nebulae...

And, whilst everypony would be enchanted by this astral ball and Princess Luna would be smiling, feeling the love and appreciation of ponies around her… I would be standing somewhere in the deep shade, smirking warmly… happy that she is happy.

HapHazred: Now, what would I want as a celebration?

Well, I think that there’s something in Equestria that could be pretty interesting to look at. Across the episodes, we’ve been shown examples of some pretty weird and wacky pieces of engineering. Automated cider-makers, no less than two flying machines (three if I include the balloon, and those are only the ones I can remember) and hopefully countless others.

If I were in charge of organizing a thing, I’d try having a whole fair dedicated to these kinds of things. Events like Gravity Racing (where you make cars out of bits and pieces and shove ‘em down a hill), designing flying machines for prizes, and overall celebrating innovation.

It would also make my little engineering student’s heart explode. Where? No idea. Does it matter? All that matters is the participation of the masses and making sure nothing blows up. Not too much, at least.

If anyone asks you what's the difference between Applejack and Rarity, show them this picture. The essence is all here.

Gulheru: Allow me to share something personal, concerning this week’s episode. An old mentor of mine once said: The slightest push, the smallest touch, sends echoes throughout life. Even an act of kindness may have more severe repercussions than you know or can see. Since I heard those words, I have always attempted to pay attention to everyday problems and struggles. When we are but willing to look, we can spot moments when our small gesture can make a difference. Usually of the good kind. A word here, a smile there, can all become a wave strong enough to wash through other people’s lives. One does not have to be heroic, or brave, or stalwart. Wit and cunning also work.

So, allow me to ask, did this week’s lesson make you really feel motivated to do a little good for your community? By petite, small acts of kindness that can change what lies around you? Is it even worthwhile in your opinion, to engage in such activities, or is it but a moot statement for you, forged just so Rarity’s and Applejack’s quest would have a higher meaning after all?

Prane: So that’s what happens when there’s no clear villain or otherwise morally ambiguous character in the episode! You get all philosophical. Interesting.

Anyway, let’s roll with it. It is true that the series teaches how to be a good person, and that all kinds of helpful gestures are slowly programmed into the viewer’s brain with every episode. The question you’re asking, I feel, it’s whether the ponies are molding us efficiently, whether there are good odds that someone will emerge a better person after meeting them. It will vary from person to person, because we all have our past (that is not today!) and hence some episodes will have a stronger impact on our present and, possibly, our future. Sisterhooves Social is an excellent example, because it’s likely to be received differently by people who have younger siblings. For them, it’s no longer about Rarity being overdramatic, but it’s the bond they formed and had tested in real life that counts. Therefore, it is quite likely that they will be affected by the message of the episode.

Regarding this one, and whether it made me want to be better for the community, my answer is no. There’s no community (understood as in the episode: a group of people living in the same area and connected with past events, local traditions, and general relations more complex than an occasional “good morning”) where I live, and I’m fine with that. However, there’s also the butterfly effect, so we all better say that “good morning” whenever we can. Perhaps it’ll make someone’s day better and give them the motivation to be better in some other community they belong to.

HapHazred: Kind of. I’m already trying to get involved with things around my university, so I’m sort of there already. That said, it does kind of hit a soft spot. All too often, the places I live are made worse not by people doing bad things, but never really doing good things.

And it’s hard to engage with the community when it is often presented as an annoyance. People stopping you on the street to discuss things can be irritating, even if I always stop to listen, at least.

I’ve rarely been one to do much more than donate to charity in terms of organizations, but I’ve never tried being anything less than a nice guy. I stop when someone looks in trouble and I always smile a bunch and be polite.

I guess this episode felt less like something that’d convince me, but more just a reminder. An idealistic, childish reminder, sure, but if I wanted to see a nitty-gritty grounded mirror of reality, I’d just step outside.

Your panelists for today (drop by their profiles/stories/blogs and say hello!):
- HapHazred
- Gulheru
- and yours truly.

No Sassy Saddles, unfortunately. It seems that the fic I wanted to write about her will have to wait, because recently someone turned my attention back to another story of mine that first: deserves getting cleaned up from the effects of some bad writing habits of mine, and second: deserves a sequel (and a whole bunch of side-stories, actually). No promises or details at this time.

See you after the Sisterhooves Social redux!


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