Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Trot Topics, *How Canon Is Expanded Universe?: The Journal Of The Two Sisters

After a while, the fans finally get some "official" clues into the history of Luna and Celestia's pre-history during the founding of Equestria. The story begins sometime after the events of what was covered in the Hearth's Warming Eve pageant, but the book itself is handled like an actual diary written by the sisters in their experiences of becoming genuine princesses. This "official" journal is sure to leave some deep impacts in the already given continuity.

We start out by discovering that the sisters were in fact alicorns from birth, and raised by other alicorns. They don't mention who the other alicorns were, if their parents or other relatives were alicorns, or even where they all lived prior to where the journal begins, other than they both used to hang around the hills in Canterlot. The sisters are approached by Star Swirl the Bearded and reps from the three pony tribes to take up the title of princesses and rule Equestria, since at the time they seem to be the only alicorns available. Representing the tribes were Smart Cookie, Clover the Clever, and Private Pansy as shown in Hearth's Warming Eve history, but where Star Swirl himself knew of the only remaining alicorns were during the whole Windigo crisis isn't explained, as I'd imagine their combined magics might have helped stave off the creatures that were causing all these problems for the pony tribes, even if their absence forced the tribes to finally unite despite how many ponies probably died of starvation or freezing to death.

During the princesses' coronation, its revealed that the act of raising the sun and moon were first handled by the unicorns, primarily lead by Star Swirl. This means, that even if there weren't any alicorns at all, Equestrians could still have control over the sun and moon if they had enough unicorn magic to accomplish it.

Celestia mentions that alicorns don't age at the same rate as regular ponies. Now if that's because they stop physically aging at a certain point like high elves or other mythical creatures isn't known, nor if alicorns are in fact immortal, at least to the point of maintaining a long life span. How Celestia and Luna have maintained their physical age might be the result of time manipulation as described in a later chapter, but still nothing definitive on their longevity for being around for more than a millennium. If alicorns can naturally live this long, than what happened to the other alicorns the sisters said raised them?

After making their new crib in the Everfree Forest near the Tree of Harmony, we get a little backing up the whole scenario from Castle-Mania where Luna had all these trap doors and secret passages made. Funny how she has a playful spirit back when she was younger, but turned into "Serious McSerious" a few centuries later. This plays out when Princess Platinum(who is in fact not King Sombra's daughter)questions Celestia and Luna's qualifications into being made instant princesses. Luna gets a little more defensive than she needed to regarding this by using the Royal Canterlot Voice on her, plus her relationship with a friendly manticore to dissuade Platinum from her conflicting attitude, then sending her down one of her Scooby-Doo traps, which for some reason makes Platinum want to be friends with her afterwards. It's not like some of the royalty in Equestria wasn't allowed to question Celestia and Luna's selection at being made princesses, then again no real explanation was given as to how these two particular alicorns are the ones that should be made their new overlords. Another thing though is that Platinum seems to have had a slight personality change since Hearth's Warming Eve, although what we know of her was only portrayed in a play, so its hard to say what she was really like during that bit of history.

Celestia and Luna had befriend a manticore named Melvin in the Everfree Forest. Luna apparently has the ability to communicate with other animals, similar to Fluttershy. It's known that the princesses had the ability to synchronize with the Elements of Harmony, but it wasn't ever made totally clear if they had the abilities that would be passed on to the Mane 6. They do show that Luna has a humorous nature with all the trap doors she made in the Castle of the Two Sisters, so she probably also personifies Pinkie's element too.

Luna later heads out past the forest to discover a tribe of zebras. They do apparently all have their own cutie marks, and all speak in rhyme. They used to be prey to some of the nastier manticores from the Everfree Forest, so they developed the art of spellcasting to protect themselves. If this is what lead to the manticores being rarely seen in the Everfree Forest isn't told, but they don't seem to bug the ponies too much either, and their feud with the zebras probably lead to them being more docile, similar to Manny Roar shown in the TV series pilot.

Star Swirl is instrumental in teaching the princesses how to use magic, specifically in raising the sun and moon, to which they finally get their cutie marks. Since alicorns live longer than normal ponies, they don't actually get their cutie marks until later in their lives, at least what seems to be around their early teens. Although, just because alicorns have longevity doesn't mean they should get their cutie marks later in life. Again, they'd need other alicorns to compare them to.

Another thing Star Swirl goes over with the sisters is that his time travel spells. Apparently, the one he uses to go to the past can only be used once for a few moments, but whether this can be used only the one time per magic-user is still unknown. He also has figured out how to travel into the future, but if this works the same way as going to the past with how long you can spend hasn't been unrevealed, although it's hinted that Star Swirl was there long enough to find out a few things about Equestria's future history.

Star Swirl's time magic also allows him to use an age-reversal spell allowing him to make himself physically younger. If this is true, it would explain how Luna and Celestia have managed to live so long, even probably longer than normal alicorn standards. Also, could Star Swirl still be alive after all this time from using this spell? Even though it wouldn't stop him from being outright killed, it is possible that the spell might allow someone to use it up to a certain point. Like their own body would naturally die, or they would run out of magical energy after using it for too long. If that was the case, alicorns could utilize this magic longer than ponies could given their higher powers, but would also eventually run out of "alicorn mana".

One bit has Celestia and Luna running into griffons for the first time as they are muscling into Equestria's airspace. Commander Hurricane(who here is revealed to actually be a guy)explains that the pegasi originally settled a truce with the griffons for flying in their domain, but since the tribes had united to form Equestria, their contract is null and void. The princesses manage to win the griffon king over with some tasty eclairs, bringing a little light onto the griffon's love of baked good that lead to ones like Gustave being a master chef.

After no mention of them at all until now, we finally focus on the Crystal Empire as Celestia and Luna get a message from Princess Amore(who is possible one of Princess Cadence's ancestors even though she's only a unicorn and not an alicorn)saying that the Crystal Heart, which she uses to spread her love mojo throughout the empire. was snatched by a dragon. The Crystal Heart was found in someplace called the Crystalline Mountain near the empire, and is what gave Amore the source of her cutie mark(also like Cadence), the power of which she also uses to protect the empire. So, without it the Crystal Ponies are all mopey, as if the Crystal Heart was the only thing that could give them any positive feelings, meaning they have some serious withdrawal syndrome if they don't get their regular fix of Crystal Heart.

The dragon who took it claims that the Crystal Heart was part of his horde in the Crystalline Mountain that he put in before going into a long hibernation. When the Crystal Ponies found it, they didn't know there was anyone with a copyright on it, so after the dragon finally woke up, he came to get back what he says is his. Celestia and Luna dial up some griffon buddies and Melvin the manticore to try and intimidate the dragon into giving his bling back, even though they find it waiting to be taken out with the dragon's trash as he doesn't seem to care about it too much. But, the dragon gets into real a pissing match with Celestia over ownership rights of the Crystal Heart since most dragons are greedy hoarding buttholes who don't like to part with anything.

This leads to a serious continuity fault concerning Celestia. After the dragon tells her to hit the road, instead of trying to negotiate for the Crystal Heart like a fair ruler, she goes totally postal and uses the Royal Canterlot Voice to scare the living crap out of the poor lizard. She gets way more high and mighty than she needed to, partially because she doesn't really have a dog in this fight from a political point of view since the Crystal Empire isn't in her jurisdiction. Plus, Celestia could seemingly use a more beneficial solution, like offering the dragon some extra shiny gems in exchange. Then again, this is the same princess who condemned her own sister to being marooned on the moon for a thousand years just because she didn't turn off her nightlight one time! The dragon concedes, despite the fact he could have totally flash-fried Celestia, and returns the Crystal Heart. The Crystal Ponies celebrate by having the first ever Crystal Faire. This wasn't ever mentioned before in the History Of The Crystal Empire book Twilight found in their library years later because it was probably on the last page that was ripped out.

In the last part of the journal covering the sisters' origins, they learn that Star Swirl has physically aged slightly because he used all his magical energy to raise the sun on his own, as they need about six unicorns to raise it and six more for the moon. But all the other ten unicorns were out with the flu or something, and it never occurred to Star Swirl to ask the two powerful alicorn princesses to do it. In taking over the task of moving the heavens, Celestia and Luna finally get their cutie marks, plus this also give them even more magical potential by rejuvenating their powers. Whether this is what helps give them their supposed immortality isn't totally explained, but it does allow them to replenish other ponies' mana, including giving Star Swirl some of his youthfulness back, so that does stand out as being a probably source of Celestia and Luna's longevity.

The rest of the journal is actually "The Journal Of Friendship", which was everything that the main cast wrote down as the lesson of the week for every episode in Season 4, as well as some additional material, including an actual blank journal portion for fans to write in on their own. So the last quarter of the book is like a behind the scenes epilogue to each episode of the season, plus some rather expanded dialogue from Pinkie Pie(and you though she only rambled on that much when she's talking!). The book is pretty much a necessity for any brony wanting to know most of the early days of Equestria and the princess' origins, although there's still alot left unaccounted for, like the sisters' parents, their extended "royal family", and their original synchronizing with the Elements of Harmony. Maybe these plot strings will be tied up in future episodes of the TV series or other expanded universe material, but your average MLP fan should definitely be satisfied with this installment.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trot Topics, *How Canon Is Expanded Universe?: Friends Forever #8

Rarity and Applejack do their own take on Planes, Trains and Automobiles in this latest issue, going on a road trip from the Equestira equivalent of East Coast to West Coast. While this odd couple might get on each other's nerves from time to time, imagine these mares having to spend time on the road together, all while severing some continuity threads with the regular show.

The story opens up with yet another shot of the Apple family farm getting inexplicably destroyed again. We don't know what caused it specifically this time, but Winona was somehow involved. It's like that place is just doomed to get wrecked on a weekly basis. "The Apple farm got wrecked? Must be a day that ends in "y"!" Seriously, just make the next one out of adamantium or something. Talk about a running cliché!

Applejack and Rarity head off to see AJ's relatives in Applewood(the pony version of Hollywood)to start selling apples directly through them. They stop over in Salt Luck City where Applejack decides to pet a goat at a tourist trap inside a gate, which is another example of what was supposed to be a sentient creature according to Lauren Faust's original script bible. Even though we've never heard them speak within the context of the show, it's established that they interact with the other ponies socially and can actually hold down a job, so why here they're being seen as live some kind of livestock is particularly questionable.

Our comical duo later stops over in Seaddle where they watch a water ski stunt show, which marks the first time we've seen an actual motorboat in this universe. Whether its powered by steam or magic isn't explained, but it is powerful enough to drag a half-dozen pony water skiers and propel it on a ramp and over a crowd onto a taxi which is oddly carried by a pony that looks like Robert De Niro.

After missing a train, AJ and Rarity "borrow" a pedal-powered gyro-flyer, similar to the one Pinkie used briefly in one episode minus the candy motif. Cherry Berry used one too, although hers resembled an actual helicopter. It make you think why the non-Pegasus ponies don't use these more often, and we know that they have magical-powered copters too like the small one Tank uses. So, you'd think that there would be more ponies using these things, including a certain Cutie Mark Crusader who has difficulty flying on her own.

Our daring young mares in their flying machine end up crashing right into Mount Monument, the Equestria version of Mount Rushmore, but with the four alicorn princesses instead of U.S. Presidents. Here they were just adding Twilight as she was just recently made an alicorn.

After hiring a stagecoach to Applewood, the girls get attacked by the Cattle Rustler Gang, a bunch of bulls who ambush after getting pummeled by an angry Applejack swear they'll be back in another issue. So, are the one-shot villains aware of their fictional existence in this comic book universe?

Once they arrive in Coltifornia, AJ and Rarity go to Whinnyland(the pony version of Disneyland)and ride the Pirates of the Carriagebean with somepony(or statue)who looks like Capt. Hoofbeard from the My Little Pirate: Friendship Ahoy story arc. Does this mean that Hoofbeard's exploits became so famous that he's got a ride based on him? Wonder if that actually is Hoofbeard on the ride, meaning he's part-timing from his pirate life.

In a wrap up of the characters the girls met on their trip, they show that the pony that pulled their stagecoach went on to become a king on his own, via Conan the Barbarian. So, is he an official "king" that's recognized by the Equestrian royalty?

Pretty good look at the extended map of Equestria in this one. Although you'd think they could cover more established areas like Appleloosa.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trot Topics, *How Canon Is Expanded Universe?: Rarity And The Curious Case Of Charity

Rarity takes the throne for the next chapter book. has joined the House of Outrageous and Opulent Fashion(or H.O.O.F)which is some kind of professional fashion society, and she is charged with being the mentor of the young unicorn, Charity Sweetmint. The strange part is that this story actually reaches to some of the other expanded universe titles. There isn't a lot in this though that is outside of the normal continuity, but there are some "rarities" here.

There's a lot of references to France in this. For one thing the book mentions that one that one of Rarity's favorite "French" designers is Coco Cheval, who is supposedly not Coco Pomel. Although later on Charity mentions that she studied abroad in "Mare-is, Prance", which means there is an Equestrian equivalent of France, but it's not actually called France. This is weird, since you'd think that in this universe they'd refer to the style or language as "Prench".

We get another brief cameo by Derpy, although here she's not referred to by name. It is established that she is a mail pony here, although for some reason she can't seem to talk normally. Sweetie Belle is somehow able to understand what she says though. Derpy delivers a letter to Rarity that Charity is coming from the Larson's The Neigh School For Design, which is possible named after the show's producer.

One brief bit is when Rarity is trying to help Charity finding inspiration from the things around her, and brings Rarity to remembering Pinkie's giant costume of herself, which is first shown in The Return Of Queen Chrysalis story arc of the comics. This was the first time that something from the IDW comics has been referenced into the expanded media, even if it wasn't on the TV show.

This was a pretty good story that you could've actually seen turned into a regular TV episodes. Although it's got few emissions from the regular timeline, it worth looking into.