Sorry I'm usually so quiet. I assure you I'm busy behind the scenes with some collaborative stuff you'll see later, and I have a couple of commissions on the go.
Also experiencing some delays with some annoying IRL stuff that gets in the way of my free time for art.
But hey, I really enjoyed that new pony episode we all got this morning. I was thinking that from now on, I should try to make more journal entries by sharing my thoughts about each new episode, now that we have a new pony season to look forward to.
I've watched the first two episodes (2-part episode) twice now, and I have to say it's probably one of the strongest season openers. I'd rank it second, below Return of Harmony.
I'm still not quite sure how to feel about that new crystal treehouse-castle of Twilight's. The original library looked like it could be a "home". And Celestia's Canterlot castle looks like an actual palace, with palace staff and the like. This crystal treehouse looks like neither. It's big and empty, and cold, and not especially appealing to the eye. I can only hope that it will grow on me and that the writers will find a way to make it make sense for its setting in a little town like Ponyville.
When the Mane 6 received their "assignment" from the new crystal table map-thing, I was reminded of the "Caring Meter" from that old Care Bears cartoon that I used to watch as a (very) small child. I was afraid that it would be kind of hokey like that. But really, it seems to be working out well so far with this first outing. It looks like it could be a great plot device for the writers to send the Mane 6 to really explore different parts of Equestria, and do some much-needed world-building. I just hope that they manage to better balance the presence of ALL the Mane 6 characters in single episodes. It tends to give no single one character enough focus, and this was a common problem for me in Season 4 (Daring Don't) that I would rather not see repeated.
Of course, I was spoiled, like many were, about the conundrum of this episode; namely that we have a town where the ponies have no cutie marks, but seem to be living under the Equestrian version of "communism". Despite being spoiled by that early-released animatic, I still found this to be a pretty intriguing idea, especially for MLP. There were a number of genuinely "creepy" moments as our heroines are introduced to this highly regimented society. Usually, the "bad guy" in these season premieres is some sort of super powerful villain, with an OBVIOUSLY evil agenda. But this was a dilemma that we've actually dealt with in the real world, historically, and to some degree it is possible to see the appeal of such a philosophy, despite how easily corruptible it is. Seeing MLP tackle such an issue, even in the context of a kids show, I thought was pretty interesting.
I enjoyed how most every pony had a chance to shine in this episode. No single member of the Mane 6 got MUCH focus, especially Applejack and Rainbow Dash, but it was interesting how Fluttershy was the most open to the "equalist" philosophy.
What I especially enjoyed is how we get a chance to see OTHER ponies, besides the Mane 6, get a chance to have the spotlight for a bit. And at least half of these supporting characters were male, which I thought was pretty cool, being a male viewer watching a show that is usually dominated by female characters.
I do feel like there was a bit of a missed opportunity in the moment where the character Party Favor chooses to take the fall for "consorting with strangers" and expressing desire for his returned cutie mark. In so doing, he spares two of his accomplices from suffering the same "fate". This also saves Fluttershy from having to rat out all three of the involved ponies. As punishment for this, he gets locked in the broom closet with 5 of the Mane 6 for a night (oh no), and the other two ponies remain concealed. However, I was ultimately left wondering what the point of this was. If you were going to spare those other two ponies from being locked in the broom closet for a night, then DO something with them.
Instead, it was all just Fluttershy acting as the double-agent, and figuring out the dastardly truth all on her own. It's not that I don't enjoy seeing Fluttershy in these kinds of situations that challenge her bravery, but it's something we've seen before, and it would have been a little more interesting for her to help and be helped by those other two ponies that were on her side. It also might have been a good callback to Fluttershy learning the "harsher" side of kindness in the Breezie episode, if she had actually chosen to rat out all three ponies, for the sake of the mission. We might have also seen more interaction between all three of these ponies and the rest of the Mane 6, which might have been interesting.
On that note, we don't see much, or any, real dialogue between Party Favor and the rest of the Mane 6 as they are locked up for the night. All his bravery that must have compelled him to take the fall for his friends goes out the window, and he just ends up cowering in the corner, and then begging Starlight for forgiveness the next morning..... it just felt like a bit of a letdown for me. We have these two opportunities for regular main characters to interact with these supporting characters, and it is not taken.
Oh well, we only have 22 minutes per episode after all...
Although the character development up to this point was minimal, it was still enjoyable, and quite refreshing, to see characters OTHER than the Mane 6, play a significant role in saving the day. I don't mean to sound like I'm "anti-Mane 6" here, because of course I still enjoy these characters too, but this show is long overdue for some serious expansion into a more fully fleshed out world, and better varied and developed supporting characters. I know chances are that we won't see these newly introduced characters again for the rest of the season, but I am hoping that what was done for them here is foreshadowing some similarly expanded roles from our pre-established supporting cast back in Ponyville and the like.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable episode. My critiques are mainly nit-picks. Oh, and I really enjoyed that "Our Town" song. It was very catchy. Although I also noticed that they never actually NAMED the town. Is it literally called "Our Town"? I think it would be kind of funny if they made that official.
Anywhoo, like I said, I am hoping the writers take some opportunities to really flesh out the world in the coming season. They certainly had plenty of time during the hiatus to figure it out.
Much looking forward to next week. Let me know your own thoughts in the comments if you have any to share.