20 3 / 2012
While writing my favorites-based ranking of MLP:FiM episodes, I found myself promising to analyze a bunch of them. Now, I’ve decided to pull all the stops and analyze them all. I’m skeptical about my ability to do this, since I’ve tried to do the same with a large number of anime shows over the past four years and never succeeded in finishing a show, but I think that my love of MLP is enough to conquer this obstacle!
I’d like to make these analyses into videos or something, but I’m no good at editing and doubt I’ll ever get around to it. If anyone is interested in making video analyses using my posts as a springboard, be my guest!
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are no ideas in this post that haven’t been expressed by someone else before, given the volume of this fanbase, but oh well.
Episode One: Friendship Is Magic, Part 1 (Mare in the Moon)
When Twilight is reading about the history of Nightmare Moon, Princess Celestia’s voice narrates. I like to think that this book was Celestia’s own account of events, which brings up a point about history: it’s written by the winners. According to Celestia, she “reluctantly” harnessed the elements of harmony and “tried to reason” with her younger sister, but (and fans of the “lunar republic vs. solar empire thing will love this), we could easily say that this is propaganda by Princess Celestia, and a simplification of a more political and intricate series of events.
I doubt this, of course, but one of the things I like about MLP:FiM is that while it has a canon, that canon is very loose. The idea that Celestia has simplified the story of trapping her sister in the moon need not even be a dark or nefarious twist, but is still something you could run in any direction with. This is helped by the fact that Celestia consistency withholds information and manipulates her subjects throughout the show.
Moving along, the image of Canterlot in this episode is interesting, because what we see is a less populace, sort of garden-like area. It reminds me of the city Darnassus from World of Warcraft (the Night Elf capital), whereas in episodes such as Sweet and Elite, we see a more city-like, probably Paris-based part of town. This isn’t the last time we see Canterlot like this—the Summer Sun Celebration seen in The Cutie Mark Chronicles also looks like this. What I don’t know yet (and will learn as I watch) is whether the appearance of Canterlot makes a definitive shift at some point, or if there’s an easy way to mark different parts of town (this part is palace area, that part is a park, etc.).
The Moondancer scene makes me glad that there are such in-depth wikis for this show. For a moment, I wondered if Colgate (AKA Minuette) was Moondancer, but then I noticed that she also had a present for Moondancer. Then I found out that Moondancer is a G1 pony. Fun reference! I love that Colgate is one of the first background ponies in the show, because I think she’s probably the single most clone-stamped pony (or at least the most noticeable). It seems like every crowd shot icontains three to eight Colgates. Lyra also shows up in the Canterlot scene, so we get to have our first egregious case of repeating background ponies when they both become Ponyville residents fifteen minutes later.
Most fans probably noticed this long ago, since so many have rewatched the show so many times, but there’s a pretty huge difference between the way some characters’ voices sound in this episode versus now. Spike sounds more childish and less boyish than he does now, and Rainbow Dash sounds a lot more feminine then she does in, say, Read it and Weep.
Here’s a line that raises a million questions: “the stars will aid in her escape.” What the hell are these stars?! Well, seeing as Equestria’s celestial bodies are controlled by Alicorns, it stands to reason that the stars could also be controlled by Alicorns. The idea that a bunch of star Alicorns assisted the escape of Nightmare Moon raises its own questions and intrigue. It’s even more tempting to think that the stars are actual entities because when Nightmare Moon does escape, four stars appear to land on the moon before her face disappears from its surface!
I wonder if the idea of Twilight using her powers to write letters hadn’t come up at all at the time of this episode, or if it had, but they chose to have Spike write anyway. I wonder because Twilight has so much trouble dumbing down her words for Spike to write them, I find myself wondering why she doesn’t write the letter herself. Maybe she’s just lazy. Or I shouldn’t be thinking so much about it.
Skipping ahead a few scenes, I get the impression that Rainbow Dash was the most “realized” pony at the start of this show, besides Twilight Sparkle. Her personality shines the most of the five ponies that Twilight meets, and her character remains pretty consistent throughout the show. Seeing as she was based on Lauren Faust’s interpretation of her own favorite pony, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lauren had her better figured out than anyone else. (Though to be fair, Pinkie Pie is also pretty much full Pinkie Pie in this ep, and Rarity isn’t far behind.)
There are a lot of vocabulary gags in this episode. At times, I found myself wondering if many of the little kids watching this show would’ve gotten confused by it all. Some of it is more directly explained, like Twilight translating Rarity’s French, but Twilight running through variants of “precipice” with Spike I could see going right over kids’ heads. Maybe Lauren Faust wanted to help improve kids’ vocabulary?
This episode raises a question which has haunted me throughout the entire show: what the hell does Pinkie Pie *do*? Popular consensus seems to be that she’s a pastry chef… but is she? We’ve only seen her actively making baked goods a couple of times, and always for her own parties or immediate consumption. All of the other ponies have clear-cut jobs which they are regularly seen performing. All of them live in their own houses. Pinkie lives in the attic of Mr. and Mrs. Cake’s bakery and is never seen doing real work. Is she… a freeloader? A helping hand?? Apprentice??? Notice how she’s the only one not doing any job for the Summer Sun Celebration?
I wish I knew more about how cartoons, especially Flash cartoons, are made, so that I can look at the Fluttershy scene more closely. In Japanese animation, it’s not unusual for an individual animator to handle an entire scene, and if this were anime, I’d assume that such was true of the Fluttershy scene, because it features the strongest animation and use of facial expressions in the episode. It stands out especially because this episode isn’t strong in those fields.
That about concludes my analysis, if you can call it that. Here are some other random notes I took:
- Lyra, Bon Bon, Derpy, and Colgate are all in every shot at the party. Also, Carrot Top is in the Summer Sun Celebration scene. It’s very cool to see all these ponies even in the first episode.
- They hung a literal lampshade on Spike’s head.
- Why on earth does the Summer Sun Celebration take place indoors?!
Join me, uh, soon, for episode two!