• Let's Review: The Student Six and the Bureaucrat Buds


    It's been nearly a year since the Convocation of the Creatures story line came out. With no new comic this week, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the representatives of each species.

    What's that? You don't remember these characters? Have no fear! Let's use the Student Six as a compare and contrast.

    Check out the full article after the break.

    This two-part comic story finished up roughly two months before the premier of School Daze. Though I didn't realize it at the time, this story seemed to be a sampling of the dynamic we would witness from Twilight's students. Beings of separate species coming together to combine their talents and friendship to achieve a goal.

    This is me when my keys go AWOL.

    Yet before diving in to individual comparisons I think it important to note the differences. After all, there's a big difference between a school's social culture and a convocation's roles. Though in many ways, I think the bureaucrats had it easier.

    Location, Location, Culturation
    Want to know why hardly anyone talks about Sandbar outside of shipping? Because he's a pony in Ponyville. A grain of sand on a tropical beach. His friends tend to stand out more because they are strangers to the larger Equestria, and as a result I think they stand out more. No so for the bureaucrats, who gather within the Hall of Unity. Neutral territory within a gathering specifically aimed at sharing cultures. Not just leaders but also entertainers and artists.

    Which costs more? The multiple bands or the hors d'oeuvres?

    By comparison, Twilight's school of a friendship can feel diminished. It is within Ponyville with a predominantly pony class. Cozy Glow used this to her advantage in both What Lies Beneath and School Raze, almost turning the students against their peers. It's unfortunate that we didn't get to see Twilight invite guest speakers from each culture to help with the exchange. I do think the School of Friendship facilitates learning about other cultures, but its presentation is limited and needs to evolve.

    Looking at this, I think the Convocation offered the bureaucrats a chance to form bonds faster than the students could. Although it's not just the setting that allowed this. It also helps that they share a job.

    United Focus
    When the student six gathered they were at first opposed to one another. Butting heads over clumsiness, attitude, awareness, interests, you name it. Funny enough, the situation that unified them was a shared disinterest in the school's regimented teach style. Between School Daze and Non-Compete Clause, it seems to be a trend that the students in this school unite faster when their teachers are failing at their jobs. Normally this would be a good common foe except that it's the ponies we've been celebrating for seven seasons. We want to see them succeed as teachers while helping lift the students.

    This was not a highlight for the teaching staff's role.

    The Bureaucrat Buds have their own sacrifice. Princess Celestia didn't get to show her best any more than Twilight has gotten to show her best self as a teacher. However, these archivists have a common foe outside the ponies. I am not referring to the griffon lord Goldstone, who serves as an opportunist. Their true enemy is time, both in disentangling records built up over time and working within a very tight deadline.

    I do love how Price draws surprise.

    But here's where the two parties diverge. The students are coming from very different lives and working to figure out how they fit into the local school culture. The bureaucrats know their respective roles and enjoy one of the greatest gems: following the work they enjoy with others who share that passion. There's no 100%–10% split between investment or effort. All of them contributed towards finding a solution and getting it to Celestia. In this way I think they're at an advantage over the Student Six, though this is offset by their limited appearance.

    a-HA! A ta-DA!

    With the scenarios set aside, let's tackle each representative.

    Blacktip/Smolder

    Both dragon representatives place a lot of value on their culture, regardless of how other species perceive them. While Smolder seems to put most emphasis on her own experiences as a dragon, Blacktip is a historian and prides himself on dragon-kind's longevity. His first action within the story is to diminish Changeling culture against his own.

    The only way to travel!

    Both dragons also try to emphasize an aloof nature. Smolder has gradually warmed up to her friends and Spike but at first she was too cool for school. As the bureaucrats seek documentation that will save Equestira, Blacktip makes a show of being uninterested and only changes his mind when Raven points out the gem exports. Yet the griffons could do the same thing and if not, Dragons could just raid the land. Blacktip shouldn't really care who holds the land, but he becomes one of the most passionate workers.

    For a guy who didn't care before,
    he's uniquely intense!

    I think the tipping point was when other beings like Utrica expressed admiration for his culture. Not saying it was better than theirs, but showing genuine appreciation. The whole "why should I care" was almost a ritual before he committed himself. Given the dragons' presentations in the show and comics, both these characters are a welcome addition.

    Horwitz/Yona

    I can't prove the ages of any of the students yet Yona always struck me as the youngest. The most eager, having recently entered adolescence according to the Hearthswarming Club episode. And the one who insists that yaks are best no matter what.

    I'd be afraid of headbutts
    whilst reading.
    Horwitz is Yona's polar opposite. The eldest of the bureaucrats who has experience in both yak and pony culture. She does show great pride in her own tribe but does not use comparisons or need to put others down. Her character expresses a matured, centered viewpoint that immediately helps others. That's why it's a bit frustrating that she forgets an important catalog difference between yak and pony archives. I still think this a very forced plot point.

    The most elegant mustache in yak history!

    Even with this event, however, her own knowledge helps set the stage for the solution. She also exhibits some quick thinking during the chase with the griffon guards. A yak who prefers to use her head for thinking instead of head-butting.

    Urtica/Ocellus

    Both the show and comics showed the Changelings as snarling, laughing, wicked creatures. Post-reformation, it seems the counter-balance is to have its members act very timid. Both Ocellus and Urtica are meek beings who prefer to go unnoticed at first. Urtica does bristle faster when her own culture is disrespected.

    She's asked to help the dragon who dissed her,
    and she does so without hesitation.

    Urtica may have the hardest presentation because the Changelings don't get to show off their culture during the convocation. As we learn from Ocellus, they're still working on developing their own traditions and likely other crafts. We also see that Urtica first exhibits a stammer when introducing herself, but it goes away as she becomes more familiar and gains confidence. Then it comes right back during the chase. Her flying into a chandelier suggests that she struggles with adrenaline moments even more than Ocellus.

    The irony of striking an acorn-shaped chandelier.
    If you know the Changelings' origin, you'll get that.

    She's also the only Changeling I've seen thus far to wear clothing. I wonder if there's a story behind that.

    Glenda/Gallus

    Another study in opposites. Gallus matches Smolder in an aloof attitude with an initial hostility mixed in. We learned in The Hearthswarming Club that this attitude came from his sense of isolation within the Griffon Kingdom. Gallus became a fandom favorite due to this vulnerability and he seems aware of his culture's worst aspects. Yet he also fails to hide a keen mind and perhaps a drive to make his homeland better.

    I've often wondered what happened to the last griffon lord.
    Looking at you, Grandpa Gruff!

    Glenda couldn't not be more different. Timid and soft-spoken, she's also far too naive. She doesn't seem to recognize Goldstone's intent and if not for Twilight she would have given away Equestria's salvation. There's no malice or ulterior motive in her finding the original contract between Equestria and the griffons. It was simply dumb luck and she even berates herself later.

    It's rare that Twilight is the practical one.
    Remember when she wanted to believe alternate-timeline Chrysalis?

    I don't know how Glenda's life unfolded that she would be so unaware of her surroundings and yet so much kinder than most griffons (except Gabby). She has a limited role in the solution so I can't recognize her strengths so easily.

    Raven/Sandbar

    Yet another study in contrasts, Raven's uptight nature is anitmatter to Sandbar's easygoing style. Their lives are extremes as well. A full adult within the royal court, Raven reveals that she often oversee the bureaucracy following the Mane Six's adventures. While they initiate change, she oversees the transition and stabilization. She seems to prefer this and is the most unwilling to come out of her shell.

    Always impressed by her delivery skills.

    Sandbar is a teenage colt who is one of the most willing to mesh with the group. He didn't enjoy a lot of stand-out moments during season 8 but his growth stemmed from stepping away from hero worship and not letting the herd decide for him. Sandbar was the neutral ground for the group while Raven keeps herself at the outskirts.

    Raven has won a social life! Huzzah!

    Raven does come around and relies on the others during the climactic chase. She could have claimed the credit but instead she channeled Twilight Sparkle's penchant for speeches and credited her friends. She even gave herself permission to show some affection as they said goodbye. Both Raven and Sandbar demonstrate growth from their new relationships, but given how much more reclusive Raven behaved I think the change in her is more striking.

    Twilight Sparkle/Silverstream

    What's that? No hippogriff beurocrat? I'm betting the hippogriffs have very little paperwork what with the ransacking of Mt. Aeris and living underwater. Yet the IDW version of Twilight Sparkle fills a role very similar to Silver Stream. The bubbly, pink hippogriff/seapony was a stand-out character for her enthusiasm. Dare I say she was the group's heart.

    Go team!

    Twilight becomes the same for the bureaucrats. While they resign themselves to the library and going unnoticed, Twilight's love of history helps her celebrate their work. She encourages all of them to step outside and experience the Convocation. This helps them gain new insights that actually help the job.

    GO, team!

    I think Twilight is a more effective "heart" because she's experienced more than Silver Stream. While the hippogriff has ample enthusiasm it is unfocused and seeking guidance. Thanks to her studies in Ponyville, Twilight has a better understanding of where to focus her efforts and thus acts as a better guide.

    Just wait until your first "chased by a pony-eating monster" achievement!

    And there we are. Two groups of friends spanning cultures. Some similarities, some differences. I recommend giving The Convocation of Creatures a re-read with the Student Six in mind and see what strikes you. Much like real-world cultures, it needn't be a case of which is better. Just ask what are the best parts of both.
    A cute way to end this.

    Big thanks to DashieSparkle, whose vectors helped represent the Student Six. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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