Love Live: School Idol Festival and Trends That Should Not Be Trending In the Consumption of Cartoons

TW: Discussion of child sexual abuse and child pornography

The other day my friends finally dragged me into idol hell. To some of you, you know exactly what this means. To others, let me introduce you to Love Live School Idol Festival, based off the current popular anime Love Live. I have not watched the anime myself—everything I know is strictly from the game and what other people have told me—but I don’t believe the plot would be that much different. In the anime, nine high school girls band together to create an idol group. Idol Festival takes that plotline and makes it into the most addicting rhythm game ever.

Love Live School Idol Festival GameplayIdol Festival’s game mechanics are, perhaps unsurprisingly, simple. On the screen, a set of nine dots are laid out. As the music plays, the player, in turn, must tap the corresponding circle when they are highlighted: it’s kind of like DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) for your fingers, for lack of a better game to compare it to. You get more points by leveling up your idols; represented by different girls on cards; the usefulness of these cards represented by if they’re canon characters or not. The non-canon characters are there to allow beginners to fill their parties, but will eventually become useless as it’s impossible to reach certain ranks of completion without canon character cards. The idols are then leveled up by “practicing” with other idols (essentially “feeding” other idols to one to make that specific idol stronger), and leveled up even more—to an “idolized” state—when they practice with the same exact card. And… that’s it. It’s a fun tablet game, or computer if you run BlueStacks, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. However, as I was playing through, unlocking different character stories and just shitting around, I noticed a trend that is also indicative of a worrying cultural shift in cartoon consumption both in Japan and in America. Continue reading

Nerds Make Music Too, and That’s Cool

This month has been exhausting. Black History Month always brings pushback: talk of a Black Spider-Man has resurfaced with all the associated bigotry, and current events have been as bad as always. It’s been really emotionally taxing, so I want to talk about something a little lighter and upbeat: nerd-inspired music. (Occasional NSFW language follows.)

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Friendship is… Unnerving? A My Little Pony: Rainbow Rocks Review

The holidays this year have been hectic, but I got to spend some quality time with my family. To my delight, my little sister’s favorite way of passing the time was to watch My Little Pony: Rainbow Rocks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy MLP:FiM as much as the next Pegasister, but the films are known to be disastrous for a reason. Regardless, I had hope for the movie already knowing the prequel shorts Hasbro released on YouTube were pretty good.

For better or worse, this movie does try to have more of a plot than the first film. There aren’t as many tropes, but the overall story is a hot mess. They poke fun at the hokey magic during the first movie, while ignoring the message that friendship is important in this film. There was essentially nothing added to this universe outside of the small scene that happens during the end credits.

Spoilers ahead!

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Pony Fandom: A Bit Much?

Remember this guy from the Will You Press The Button? post?

button 2That’s just one of so many more scenarios about ponies on that site that paint the series in a particularly bad light. Others ask, “Fuck the perfect woman” but “It’s a pony.” I think in general that these topics are a tad over the top. But I digress, since the point of this post is whether this My Little Pony hate is warranted.

Now, many MLP haters pressed the button and have been sharing it on Tumblr like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve watched all of MLP. In and of itself, MLP is a great show. Not perfect, but very good.You have good female representation, you have a fairly decent feminist message. If we consider racism in MLP, it has its fair share of bad moments, but in the portrayal of the different types of ponies it has been excellent. Could I complain? Of course I could. But in general, when MLP focuses on what it does best, it does a great job.

So what’s the problem? Well, right now, I think MLP isn’t doing what it does best anymore, largely because of its adult male brony fan base. We’ve covered bronies before multiple times, as well as fanservice to bronies, and in that post, we painted them in a very positive light. The show was still fairly new when that post was written, and I’m writing this post to comment on how that has changed. The way the older part of fandom has seized control of everything that is MLP is not so good. Instead of the show being for its intended audience, young girls, the show has been hijacked by adult males. I think there is a way to appeal to both audiences; the show did initially, after all, which is why bronies exist in the first place. But now the show caters so much to bronies that the little girls are getting screwed over. And the bronies are using their ‘power’ over the show to demand more fanservice and be more obnoxious.

Speaking of obnoxious, the other bad thing about bronies is that they don’t actually ‘love and tolerate’ like they claim to. I follow MLP Confessions on Tumblr, and I can tell you for a fact that MLP fans are probably the least tolerant group of fans I’ve ever seen. In two seconds, they will jump down the throat of someone who doesn’t like their favorite ship, or dislikes their favorite fic. It’s abominable. But the part that makes it so bad is that they think they’re the nicest, most tolerant group on the internet when they’re not. Bronies are an obscenely self-righteous bunch, and that is my issue with them.

Now, do I think this problem justifies taking My Little Pony off the air? No. I think if the MLP executives stopped listening to their adult male fan base, refocused the show, and went back to its Lauren Faust-penned, Season 1 roots, things would be a lot better.

My little pony group

All Fear the Horsewomen of the Apocalypse: An ‘Equestria Girls’ Review

Don’t let be said that I’m not a woman of my word: a couple days ago I finally sat down and watched Equestria Girls with my brother. (If you don’t remember, I made the damning promise in this post right here.) I appreciate the fact that I got to watch it with him because unlike myself, he’s an actual fan of the shows and would be able to pick out the inconsistencies between this ‘movie-verse’ and the universe created by the show. Unfortunately, even with his Equestria Girls Movie Posterhelp I don’t think that the phrase I uttered the most during the film changed all that much from if I had been forced to watch it alone. (That phrase being “this is the dumbest shit.”) Not even ‘dumb’ in terms of Equestria Girls being a film made for an audience that is obviously not in my age bracket, but dumb in all the trite ways one would expect from a piece of media designed solely around marketing. This is not to say that it was all terrible, mind you, and some of my assumptions from the earlier post were certainly proven wrong. So let’s dive right into the plot and find where this movie went from enjoyable kid’s movie to jumping the shark.

Twilight and her friends travel to Celestia’s castle so that she may receive some lessons on being royalty from the other three princesses. During the night however, Twilight’s crown containing the element of magic is stolen by a mysterious pony. With their combined chasing skills, the six younger ponies catch the thief but only momentarily as both the crown and the mysterious pony fall through a magical mirror. In the aftermath, Celestia reveals that the pony was no other than the pupil she had before Twilight, Sunset Shimmer, whose impatience and mean nature led her to leave Celestia’s teachings and follow her own path (presumably the path of ‘evil’). Also, the mirror which the crown and Sunset fell through is actually a portal to another world. Twilight must chase after Sunset before she wreaks havoc on this unknown universe with the element of magic.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Equestria Girls

Okay, so I know this isn’t hot off the presses or anything, but I bring this up for one reason and one reason only: I’m going to watch this pony-tastic movie with my brother and I wanted to know what I was getting into. I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised by what I’m seeing, but I’m still not happy.

Equestria Girls, which I mentioned earlier in this post, seems to be taking the route that I expressly didn’t want it to take. Which is to say it’s a complete rip-off of Monster High. If you haven’t experienced Monster High, allow me to briefly explain that it is perhaps the most vapid, shallow show in existence, enveloping all possible tropes about pre-teen girls. For My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a show that seems to pride itself on breaking free of that damaging marketing chokehold, the lack of integrity in following Monster High’s footsteps is astounding. But let’s see what we’re dealing with here.

Twilight Sparkle is for some reason made to go to the human world and discover the magic of friendship there too, I’m guessing. I have no idea why else she would bother going, or why else she would be made to go. Somehow I feel like the movie won’t really explain this either. When she arrives (magically clothed), she’s horrified by her new form, but gets used to it quickly enough to walk around and attend high school, because that’s where every good girl’s show takes place. That’s where we meet our tropes: the boyfriend and the popular bitch, both of whom seem to have the personality of a cardboard cutout. Why is the boyfriend drawn towards Twilight? Because she’s purple? It seems as good a reason as any, seeing as I didn’t see any other purple humanoids in the trailer. And why is the popular girl such a bitch? Because what else would a popular, pretty girl be? It’s absolutely necessary in any good show for pre-teen girls to set up the dichotomy between the nice smart girl and the bitchy popular girl. Yes, absolutely.

I can tell you the plot right now: Twilight finds the counterparts to her pony friends, they learn the friendship magic, Twilight becomes prom queen, and then she goes home after having learned the important lesson that friendship is magic… which she should have already known. Bitchy popular girl probably learns said ‘magic’ too and becomes friends with Twilight at the very end.

Though the main draw of this film is definitely to see your favorite characters transformed into more relatable human girls and boys, I have to say that I’m really disappointed in the designs. In my post that I mentioned before, I remarked that I hoped that their designs would change, but they didn’t, to my chagrin. Even worse, in looking through all the background characters, I didn’t find a single female character who wasn’t wearing a skirt or impossibly proportioned.

And why is Spike a dog? Couldn't that be considered borderline racist?

And why is Spike a dog? Couldn’t that be considered borderline racist?

MLP is supposed to celebrate diversity and it’s silently understood that while the ponies don’t have many biological differences between them—they’re horses, after all—their personalities are enough to bridge that gap. However, when adapting to humanity, which has thousands and thousands of different body types, it is irresponsible to only stick with one. This move will make manufacturing the dolls easier, and oh, there will be dolls, but it presents the message to young girls that there is one standard of beauty, one way they should look. What a terrible message!

The one good thing I can say about Equestria Girls is that they decided to make it a film and not a show. At least a film is easy to forget after a while, and I’m sure that this movie will be quickly forgotten.

Oh, My Pop Culture Pinkie Sense: Science versus Faith in My Little Pony

s1_e15_008-700x393My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s Season 1 episode, “Feeling Pinkie Keen”, introduces an interesting conflict into the world of Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle, a scientist and evidence-driven thinker, is thrown into a world of confusion when confronted with Pinkie Pie’s Pinkie Sense, a precognitive Spidey-sense-like ability to sense danger before it happens. Pinkie doesn’t know why she sees these things; she just does, and Applejack and Fluttershy (and, I assume, the rest of the Mane Six, who aren’t in this episode) have seen her twitchy premonitions come true without fail so many times that they consider a Pinkie Sense warning as good as a promise.

Throughout the episode, Twilight becomes more and more frustrated with Pinkie. She refuses to accept that there’s not a logical explanation for Pinkie’s precognition, going so far as to hook her up to a machine to test her, and to stalk her for the day, hoping to learn something or to catch the Pinkie Sense failing. At one point she gets up on an actual soapbox to explain to Pinkie how something that’s unexplainable in that way can’t possibly exist.

A box. With soap. This episode is excruciatingly literal.

A box. With soap. This episode is excruciatingly literal.

Eventually, the evidence that the Pinkie Sense exists and is right 100% of the time becomes so obvious that Twilight can’t ignore it. She has to put aside the scientific method and accept it on faith, even if she can’t quantify it. As the episode wraps up, she sends off this Friendship Letter to Princess Celestia with the lesson she’s learned:

I am happy to report that I now realize there are wonderful things in this world you just can’t explain, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less true. It just means you have to choose to believe in them. And sometimes it takes a friend to show you the way.

The message of this episode is a little ham-fisted and confused, and what the casual viewer comes away with is the story of, essentially, a non-religious person coming to believe in a religion because they’ve witnessed a miracle. Continue reading

Equestria Girls: They’re Kind of… Terrible?

The other day, my brother handed me his phone with only the preface of, “you should write an article about this.” He knows me too well.

The last time I talked about My Little Pony, I touched on some of the good messages that the show brought to younger girls—confidence, hard work, and perseverance—and how moves within the show can serve two basic purposes: one of teaching the younger female audience the virtues that will help them when they’re older and the other providing business investors with revenue. Today I’ll be discussing this latter point in concerns to the negative implications to MLP’s audience. However, I won’t be doing this through the Friendship is Magic brand. Instead, I’m going to be looking at the newest member to the franchise, Equestria Girls.

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My Little Pony Season 3 Review

This series did not benefit from having a thirteen-episode season, and I think that was one of the central problems. It was like the MLP writers went down a checklist of things that fans wanted and made sure to cram each into the season, but because of that everything seemed forced.

This is probably the most evident in the Trixie and Discord episodes. Both episodes had the potential to be spectacular and both wound up being throwaways. It was truly disappointing to watch as nothing really happened in either episode. It was as if fans were only supposed to focus on the fact that their favorites were present (and then get excited) and not notice how poorly both episodes were written.

As much as the season seemed to be constructed to meet a checklist, the points this season chose to focus on in a lot of cases were terrible. There were two Spike-centered episodes this season out of thirteen, and the previous season (with twenty-six episodes) also only had two Spike episodes. Overall, very little time was spent on Rarity this season (who is my favorite of the mane six) and I feel more time should have been given to the mane six instead a more minor character like Spike.

I know I’m part of the brony crowd, but there have got to be little girls that watch this show, right? And I feel this season didn’t exactly cater to its entire audience. One of the reasons MLP has earned the appeal of an older crowd was because the show did not blatantly cater to them. This season was clearly meant for the bronies, and as I’ve said in an earlier post, I think too much of that fan service can be a bad thing. In Season 3, it was just too much.

The season started with lots of potential, but it didn’t fulfill that potential. There was a lot of nothingness and throwaways. Now I’m not saying I wanted a full fanfare for every episode, but to have so many throwaway episodes in a season half its usual length is a problem. I feel that if the season was longer, more plot concepts would have been fully fleshed out and the forced-ness of the season might not have been as bad.

Be A Woman: Femininity and Strong Female Characters

Many people seem to think that in order to have a strong female character that character must be tough. Super tough! And how can you be tough and a woman? Well, you’ve got to be a man!

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