• Let's Review: Toffee Truffle and Pixie Cut

    Last week saw MLP #74 hit the shelves and with it, a new comic-exclusive character. I said in that review that I'd do a comparison and now's the time!

    Pixie Cut struck many similar notes to Toffee Truffle from waaaaay back in Friends Forever #1. Did one comic put forth a better presentation than the other? Yes.

    That's the short review. To go a little more in-depth with some spoilers, catch the full review after the break!

    It's a little weird to compare two comic-exclusive characters with such a wide gap between. Toffee Truffle is the creation of Alex de Campi while Pixie Cut appeared courtesy of Ted Anderson. I'm not sure if either author has even spoken to the other and it's been over five years since the first issue of Friends Forever debuted. Yet as I read the most recent My Little Pony issue I couldn't help but think back to January 2014 and note the similarities. 

    Fear of Rejection
    It's easiest to see the connections if we look to the broader scope. Both stories feature an emphasis on anxiety and public performance. There's a reason that public speaking is still ranked as a greater phobia than death. People fear rejection, especially if it's something to which we've applied our full effort. 

    I really shouldn't be thinking of The Room
    when she goes "Oh! Hi." But I am.

    Both Toffee and Pixie face this fear and we witness their tension through private bouts. Neither will bring these anxieties to the public light but as a near-omniscient audience we are privy to same events as the lead characters. Yet both characters take the role of encouraging the leads to some kind of higher virtue. Either fair competition or self-confidence. 

    She's got a lot on the 

    Both characters have a knack for filling a role originally going to one of the leads. Fluttershy quickly shuffles off with her students when she sees that Pixie is offering Zephyr Breeze support. By the end of the baking tournament, it's Toffee and Pinkie Pie who are battling the crazed Marine Sandwhich while Applejack is frozen in transparent icing. Once again I am amazed at the sentences I write while summarizing this franchise. 

    Icing! Twilight's one true weakness!

    Yet despite the similarities I can say without hesitation that I preferred Pixie Cut's presentation. Much of that comes back to a question, "Who is this story about?"

    The Mane Character
    Horse puns will never get old. If you disagree, tough luck because I'm still gonna make them! Yet that's a question for both stories. Who is the lead character and what are they trying to accomplish?

    Fluttershy sees her brother's in good care. 
    I see possible shipping. I'm weird like that.

    Friends Forever #1 started out with Pinkie trying to get ready for a cooking contest and suffered a loss of thought due to nerves. One would assume that Applejack's role in the story would be to help Pinkie calm down and find her confidence. Such is not the case as the two witness Toffee Truffle having a breakdown. From that point, the goal shifts to throwing the competition to support a pony they just met.

    We're going to give three judges food poisoning.
    Because friendship!

    My Little Pony #74 features Zephyr Breeze suffering panic moments related to his new job. That remains the focus throughout the comic even as he witnesses Pixie Cut's skills on display followed by her partial breakdown. Though Zephyr takes on a moment's role as Pixie's champion, this is only a moment before he has to go out and live up to her example.

    I just can't see him throwing down
    with anyone!

    Because the story featuring Pixie never loses sight of the focus, she acts as a strong motivator to push Zephyr beyond his fears. Toffee becomes the idol for Pinkie and Applejack's support and so it feels like she is usurping the story. Though not a deal breaker in itself, it does lead us to another question.

    Why Should We Care?
    It's a harsh question but valid. Both stories are asking us to be invested in characters we've never met. If we're to feel some investment in their struggle then we need a reason why they as characters deserve our empathy.

    I wonder if anyone could
    say this isn't adorable?

    Again, I think Pixie comes out the stronger because we get to witness her in a variety of situations. She meets with Zephyr in a literal collision but quickly becomes endearing for a deceptively simple reason. She treats him with respect and kindness. Not coddling, but just treating Zephyr as a peer even though he has less experience.

    It means a lot when someone
    with greater experience admits to the same fears.

    Toffee Truffle has a more overt attempt at endearment. Although she's introduced in one panel as the contest opens, her moment of empathy comes from us seeing her crying over the stress while Pinkie and Applejack offer her encouragement. While it speaks highly of both ponies that they'd offer support to a competitor, I don't understand why they decide to throw the match to give her the win. After all, what has she done that makes her more deserving than the other contestants? 

    This is after Pinkie agrees to give the contest her full effort.
    I have to state that because it looks like she's still trying to forfeit.

    We're told that she needs the money for her family bakery, but that's appealing to her situation rather than her quality of character. When the time comes for her to ask Applejack and Pinkie not to throw the match, she seems to be talking down to them. 

    She's lost two out of three rounds. At this point,
    defeating these two should be a pipe dream!

    Comparing the two, there's a reason why I called Pixie's characterization deceptively simple. While Toffee's presentation tries to win with big displays of emotion and an appeal to sympathy, Pixie earns my investment by being nice. A trend in entertainment is to present a character in an extreme to win over the audience quickly. Yet I find that presenting a character who is kind and independent often works better than trying to make them larger than life. Their actions will achieve that after the audience has a foundation. 

    Moment of Weakness
    I've talk about Toffee's crying, but Pixie has her own struggle. The key difference is that her own breakdown occurs after her performance. One might think that would render the moment unnecessary but I'd argue it enhances Pixie's performance.

    Love how we can gauge her impact more 
    by Zephyr and the judge's reactions.

    It's one thing to celebrate a character's strengths, but when you add a weakness into the mix I find it improves the character's appeal. Knowing that she did so well despite all these doubts (with which I completely empathize) adds a new element to the presentation and enhances my appreciation. 

    This is why the backstage is meant to be closed off!

    Toffee does have a chance to show her culinary skills but it usurped by an attack by Marine Sandwich. As such, her success is all but forgotten as she teams up with Pinkie to win a very strange fight. Her moment of personal triumph is only a panel long. Pixie's efforts, success, and revelation are presented on a full page followed by another page talking about her dealing with these feelings. 

    Bad Character or Bad Story?
    I've fallen pretty far in favor of Pixie's presentation, but that's not because Toffee Truffle is a bad character. She has potential and a kind personality as well. Plus she is championing the idea of healthy competition, which I can't fault. 

    She is respectful in victory, which I will praise.
    She's the victor after one out of three rounds, which I will question.

    But look at how rushed her role appears even though she's meant to be an important element. A panel or two within the story, thus forcing the need for an extreme emotional appeal instead of genuine interaction. I think all this comes down to how much space the respective writers gave each character. Yes, Pixie's appearance required that Fluttershy and Co. back out, but I don't consider that a bad thing. It was just was Zephyr needed and it fit the story.

    It's strange that I criticize Toffee's extreme intro
    when Pixie has a literally sunny disposition.

    However, that leads to one final observation that has nothing to do with the characters. Friends Forever presented itself as a story between Pinkie and Applejack. Having Toffee try to stand alongside them as an important character felt like an intrusion. Pixie was in an issue of My Little Pony and she certainly fits the bill. That's not really fair to the writers but it is still a factor. 

    This comic cover is a lie! And adorable.
    It's an adorable lie!

    So if there's a lesson in this comparison I think it boils down to creating room for a character to forge a link to the audience, which can often be done through a simple, kind gesture.

    For all my hemming and hawing,
    this is endearing.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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