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Tarbtano


I came, I saw, I got turned into a Brony. Tumblr link http://xeno-the-sharp-tongue.tumblr.com/

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Dec
3rd
2021

Fanfiction Review: Double Feature! Hunters & Hallows and Friendship Souls · 5:18pm Dec 3rd, 2021

It’s quite possibly a dream of any writer or creator to see someone take their creation and work it into their own works. Call it fanworks, fictional adoption, derivative works; but it always puts a smile on my face. I write to entertain, that is why I have never opened up something like a Patreon or tipjar. So if I can entertain enough that someone decided to take the time and effort to make use of settings, ideas, or topics I assisted to put out there with their own creativity and drive, I could scarcely feel more proud as a writer. Shimmer in the Dark, Humanity’s Stand, Paradise Lost, Cool Monster-Terrible Chef, Among Giants, Angel of Odo, A Tale of Three Kings, and many more. Tonight I wish to spotlight just such a case with a splendid story in its own right that doubles as an outlet into The Bridge for a delightful sideventure. Enter, Hunters and Hallows.


Penned by THIS GUY

Much like Shimmer in the Dark before it, Hunters and Hallows (or HH for short from now on), explores a different setting with a guest party appearance by some of the cast from The Bridge. Only this time instead of a relatively small-cast, it’s multiple entire groups at play. This could have spiralled into a venture with a truly gigantic roster, but in practice this is well balanced out. It very much feels like a TV show crossover episode or arc in which the character(s) of Show B enter Show A, but the roster present for Show A is relatively contained to a selected group instead of the entire cast. The Bridge cast guest starring in this venture would be the Dark Hunter Quartet; with Irys, Gigan, Megalon, and Monster X venturing into ThatGuyVex’s world of Friendship Souls (or FS for short from now on).

FS is an ongoing Bleach-Equestria Girls crossover by Vex’s own pen and I shall cover it in more depth later on in this review. Though instead of featuring arguably the core cast of FS, the majority of the participants from Vex’s side of this crossover are characters who largely haven’t appeared prominently in FS. Certain ones like Adagio have featured of course, quite prominently in fact, but one could make the argument HH is just as much an introduction or showcase of some of the new players on the block for FS as much as it is a crossover.

In fact I think I shall indulge in a brief tangent to refer to some of said characters. HH introduces as well as expands on numerous characters from FS’ world and more. Now the easiest way I’d say to consider said characters is as new entities with the name, features, and personalities of canonical characters. Some are the likes you’d expect, others are quite unexpected. Unlike most blendings of different series, FS for the most part sticks to the Equestria Girls/Friendship is Magic roster but filtered through the world, rules, and the general faction layout of Bleach. In this respect one can favorably compare it to Fallout:Equestria (FiM filtered through Fallout) or Justice League of Equestria (DC Universe filtered through FiM).

The standout would undoubtedly be this new version of Tempest Shadow put on the forefront of the story, and arguably my favorite character of HH. It’s an uncommon introduction with Tempest fulfilling a role of both antagonist and protagonist at the same time after getting a proper front billing around the start of the second third into the story. Tempest has traits one would well remember from her canonical appearance in the movie. Her scars, past trauma, works for Storm King in a role of leadership, and motif; but past that this is a whole new character by Vex’s hand anchored in the model the film created. While we start out following the endeavors of the transplanted Dark Hunters, sent on a scouting expedition by Bagan, as well as encountering the core accompaniment of this world’s Adagio Dazzle, I’d argue the story really kicks into gear when Tempest takes them back with her to her home and base.

A layered character with poise and benign intent, though blinded initially that she’s in service to an entity that would upend all of that because currently things are going pretty well. Now why does that sound familiar? Currently she’s in a pretty good gig, the field and command lead of a whole faction under the patronage of a seemingly reasonable and benevolent lord who offers bounties and rewards for loyalty. To give a minor spoiler, Tempest isn’t looking for enemies or conquest necessarily, she’s actually looking for recruitments. This is a very cutthroat world with a ton of in-fighting and faction wars, one of which marred Tempest’s past. Her current lord and patron, this world’s Storm King, seems to and really does offer a safe haven and stability in the face of all the conflict. She sees this as such a good thing, she wants others brought into that ‘just cause’ of theirs under her king and as her compatriots. Even if she’s gotta knock a few heads together to put them in a situation to make them sit down, shut up, and listen. In a situation with warmongering factions, she’d be the heroine of a righteous story if this was all true. And it was true to her, to her loving and loyal subordinates, to the army… But not to that very king who put up such a good front.


The dramatic irony is while she has been earnestly won over and follows the hollow king out of honest loyalty and gratitude, something not even her enemies doubt; it’s her own leader who literally can’t comprehend the sweet deal they got with such loyalty that wouldn’t betray them. But, the hidden tyrant never did well with the one enemy they couldn’t hide from. Their own paranoia.

Hint hint, throw a set of arrancar and especially four kaiju into the mix, and Storm King’s plans are set on to derail.

A standout scene for me would involve once the groups have been brought back to Tempest’s home base and Storm King’s dominion. We got plenty of hints prior, but it’s here we really get the implication that these antagonists are genuinely good people and think they are doing good. They have friendships, crack jokes, and take care of prisoners fairly well. In a world full of clashing factions, some led by some very less than ideal rulers (with some exceptions), having a lord who has provided a safe lodging, comrades, food, shelter, and creature comforts can come off as winning the lottery under the patronage of a benevolent, if stern host. We get to see some of these forces, including this world’s version of Grubber as the faithful assistant to Tempest, who herself is something of a material figure to some of the younger troops she’s helped take in. All the while, we get Tempest showing X around to try and make the pitch to jump ships from serving Bagan to serving Storm King, which hits more serious because this version of him isn’t as zanny and wacky as Liev hamming it up. In some respects, it is feasible jumping ship could have happened; but a combination of their prior conflict and loyalty to his master, something Tempest can understand, is what keeps the divide going and adds to the pressing conflict as Storm King won’t tolerate such. With him or against him, no blurring.


The only negative mark I’d give the story is if one was coming to this tale specifically to follow the Hunters or the new cast introduced in the beginning few chapters, it’s not especially deep into their journeys or characterizations. The Hunters are in-character most of the time and one gets a grasp of Adagio’s troop pretty quickly, but none especially go through a character arc or wind up drastically different or necessarily changed by the end point. This is very much Tempest’s story, something that might not especially be evident given placement of the cast on the poster. This isn’t essentially a bad thing, the Hunters and their accompanying group are used to establish Tempest and Storm King’s forces are legitimate threats; it’s just very firmly Ms. Shadow’s story with some guest-stars. In this respect it is somewhat like Shimmer in the Dark, in which Rodan was pretty consistent and unchanging throughout the piece, to bounce off of and run contrary to the character arc Princess Sunset and Countess Mircalla had.

If this were a comic book, it would still count as a legit crossover; but it feels a bit less like “Batman meets the TMNT” or “Transformers - My Little Pony”, and a bit more like “A Tale of Tempest! Guest starring the Hunters”.

This does come at some cost as well to the other new characters, who do serve their roles within Adagio’s forces well and have notable characterization; but are pretty firmly secondary roles. This again, isn’t to say the others not named Tempest have little impact on the story, in fact one could argue they are the catalyst for the events that transpire; just a notice to the more dynamic character change, conflict, and main antagonist are all loaded mostly onto Ms. Shadow’s shoulders.

ThatGuyVex was open to me suggesting and making changes in the creation of this tale, and I am rather satisfied with how it ended up. So don’t take this as me spouting anything remotely resembling condemnation. This is, instead, just how I’ve always seen the story and I was perfectly fine with it in the final product. If you want to see a well done anti-villain who thinks they are the anti-hero, with genuine love and loyalty to her compatriots, and has some of the biggest changes in her life spurred on by literally meeting some of the biggest characters she’d ever see; this tale is one to enjoy.

Now, what about that other tale… well, you didn’t think I’d leave the man of the hour without a word on his own work did you?


As said earlier, Friendship Souls is an alternate universe take on the Equestria Girls series. Namely the EG side of things vs. Equestria proper as I sense it is trickier to write fight scenes using hooves to swing around a sword as opposed to hands. Taking place sometime after Friendship Games, the third EG film, Sunset and company discover magic has been afoot in the human world for quite some time but in a manner nobody in Equestria (well, almost nobody but that be spoilers) could have predicted.

As said earlier this is less a direct crossover and more of what TvTropes defines as a “Fusion Fic”, with the cast of one series slotting into roles of another series. Granted here, it’s not always direct one-to-ones with the cast of Bleach being replaced. Fans of the sword-swinging-shonen will no doubt notice more than a few expys or similarities, and at times the MLP/EG cast will change in characterization and morality some due to the ripple effect of this hidden world on their realm; but there’s only a few times you can directly notice “Oh, so _ EG character is _ Bleach character here”.

For example our main man from Bleach, Ichigo, is somewhat split between Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle. Some of his personality and a good chunk of his actions in Bleach canon, namely how he reacted to certain groups, went to Sunset. Again, only some of his personality as she is still recognizably Sunset. Him having an inner darker form part of this conflict revolves around with the hope of overpowering or accepting it, however, went to Twilight with Midnight Sparkle somewhat stepping into the shoes of Ichigo’s inner Hollow self, Zangetsu.

This creates both Friendship Soul’s best strength, though it does come with a bit of a shortcoming I’ll address later. Because some characters are very similar to those of Bleach, even those who are fans of the series might be dealt a fun curveball every now and then, about as often as they might be able to predict something coming. As with the best Fusion Fics, sometimes it's just as much fun to see how Character A from series A zigs whereas Character B from series B zags, when the two are presented with similar circumstances. So to any big into Bleach and MLP, or either of the two, will often enjoy themselves simultaneously being able to predict when new events and changes or reveals of character are about to happen; and about as often be caught by surprise when the story goes in a different direction.

It would be hefty spoilers to talk of the core roster, so instead my character notation will be devoted to one of the characters I think benefited the most from this shift. King Sombra.

Ah Sombra. You had a great concept, a pretty decent introduction in the show, and a simple hook for you to return in fan projects galore and even official media. In fact I’d say between his position of a leader of a foreign land at one point, a design that should look overly edgy and yet works, and that sequel hook of his horn surviving; Sombra has gotten some of the best mileage out of the entire villain roster when it comes to both official media and fan projects.

And here, he is very, very different from the ham-tastic type we got later in the show’s final season. Honestly, Sombra just might be the character made most distinct from the core series. He is still a king, just now of the Quincy instead of the Crystal Empire. But he is an anti-villain to a T and rocks that role. Given an ample power source, ambition, and drive; he treats his underlings and subjects differently and has been doing so for a very long time. The result is a conqueror, yes. One could say a warlord, yes. Even possibly a tyrant, indeed. But one whom actually isn’t all that vile of a character. His army admires and adores him, and while he was genuinely wicked at one point; getting an honest to goodness friend, group of loyal followers, and a spouse has bettered him significantly. This is a Sombra, and he’s called just that as he even finds his kingly title a bit redundant at this point, who’s already gone through many trials and character developments before the story even started.

I’d compare him to some of the better portrayals of Megatron recently that weren’t hammy, comically evil. Peace through tyranny, but tyranny and power nonetheless.

In the end, he’s still an antagonistic force, but an admirable one. Especially when it’s revealed some of the truly horrid things that had befallen the shadow king by no fault of his own. The result is an antagonist, but one who’s villainy and evil can be argued to be ambiguous as he wins the respect of not only his loyalists but also of his enemies. Very much worth chewing through some arcs to get to the real meat of his take. It’s not often you can have someone wear the role of antagonist and also, in many ways, mentor to the core heroes.

And this isn’t to say Celestia, Chrysalis, Tirek, and other leaders don’t get their time in the literal sun either. But I shalt not spoil too much there.

A good standout sequence, or rather sequences, to me that shows this characterization well was the protracted back and forth between Sombra and Twilight. Initially one would be led to think this big scary shadow king is a brutish villain, some of the heroes worried so, but their talks in both peaceful moments and tense sequences really do well to show off the vibrancy of both characters. In a manner, what Sombra ultimately wants and what the heroes ultimately want are the same thing. Put a stop to the fighting and get some peace and quiet. It’s just while the heroes, from a reformed and almost mentor-like Discord, to our core batch of heroes, to the Equestrians themselves all want such peace by harmonious means; Sombra is very much the “Peace by force” mentality. And this is shown by a combination of detailing the workings of his otherwise very militaristic faction, and Twilight being put to using that sharp mind of hers to figure some things out. Some things that might look evil initially, aren’t. In this manner he almost comes off as a mentor figure to young Twilight, very similar to Discord’s tutelage of Sunset.


The only quibble I found besides some pacing issues common to very long fics, is that you are more or less required to sometimes pop over to the Bleach wiki to double check some things. Yes the story does a very commendable effort explaining what is going on, and the series escalation common to Bleach by introducing the magical forces and supernatural threats one group at a time does help significantly. But, while this story can function as a gateway into Bleach to newbies, it probably would have its strongest legs either with people who already are fans of Bleach; or at the very least are fans of Shonen manga and stories.

Still, it does function admirably as a learning experience. I hadn’t dipped my toes into Bleach in years, couldn’t remember much, and I could keep up with a few jaunts to the wiki every now and then to double check a definition. It also avoids the cardinal sin of many manga series adaptations into fanfiction form, in that it dodges “gratuitous Japanese”. Japanese words come up, obviously given the series, but some potential cringe fests or translation trainwrecks were wisely avoided. So while you might want to consider glancing over some Bleach wiki material, you thankfully won’t have to whip out Google Translate to figure out what a Zanpakuto or Shikai is.

Friendship strong enough to weather the sharpest of blades? Sign me up.

And there you have it, two pieces by the pen of my good friend, ThatGuyVex. Please, do check in on his portfolio as he has plenty of other works, big and small, that are a good read to thumb through.

Report Tarbtano · 416 views · #fanfiction review
Comments ( 8 )

I've been thinking on reading these two for awhile, but I've always been a bit intimidated by the amount of chapters. :twilightsheepish:

5613604
Honestly speaking with a little background information, you could probably jump into Hunters and Hollows right off the bat. The nice thing about Friendship Souls though is that it gradually introduces the Bleach content so over time you pick things up.

5613610
That's nice to hear, definently going to check it out in the future. :twilightsmile:
By the way, you are one of the biggest reasons why I have an account on this site. The Bridge was the fic that made me want to write my own MLP-fanfic's. Your story is literally the reason why I'm here today. :pinkiehappy:

I was introduced to Friendship Souls through Hunters and Hallows. I really enjoy the series and though I never finished watching the anime, I know enough to know that FS is going in a completely different direction to what Bleach ended up at.

However, I would like to see another crossover between the two at some point. Maybe a reverse, where a group from FS end up in the Bridgeverse/Kaijuverse/Amaglamverse.

I think my favorite parts of Hunters and Hollows was every time Tempest and X interacted.

I know I've said it before but it always bears repeating; I highly appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on these stories, and I'm very happy you've enjoyed them so much. Friendship Souls, in part, was inspired by your own work in The Bridge, specifically the way you interwove the Equestria Girls storyline into things. That, combined with Faith's excellent art, especially in the drawing of the Equestria Girls characters and kaiju's human forms, was the spark that made me think that the Equestria Girls universe and cast would work well in a Shounen style anime/manga story. So I owe you thanks many times over, my friend, Friendship Souls might not even exist if The Bridge did not exist first. And to pay some homage to The Bridge by doing this crossover story was a blast, and an honor, and I sincerely hope the story itself acts as a sort of "bridge" for fans of either or our stories to check out each other's works. :twilightsmile:

When can we expect the next part of the bridge

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