• Let's Review: My Little Pony the Manga

    Surprise! This one snuck up on us but now it is time to explore this new publication.

    The ponies have gone manga! How well does this translate? Find the full review after the break. 

    But beware, reader-sama! There are spoilers. Gomen nasai!

    So I have a unique challenge this time around. Seven Seas, the publishing company for this manga, has requested that Equestria Daily not feature any publication images. Visual aids are helpful, but I'll find a way to express the ideas if nothing else.

    See? Expressive!

    This is a unique publication as it's a combination of Japanese and western ideas. The artwork is very much inspired by Japanese manga. The artist known only as Shiei, who has a DeviantArt page here, combines lineart with Ludwig Scaramento's tones to create different visuals. The proportions are consistent both in the ponies' designs and their relations to the environment. As a result, it has less of a cartoony feel than some of the IDW comics.

    This is an example of landscape proportions
    being off. The depths feels wrong.

    The monochrome style might take some getting used to. It's hard to figure out why some ponies have toned coats and others do not. At first I thought it was based on the warmth of their coat as ponies like Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Rarity all have brighter, toneless coats. Yet Applejack has the same toning as Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash; making me wonder if this was more to contrast her coat against her blonde mane. Point being, everypony has a distinct look even without colors.

    Rainbow looks surprisingly good in black and white.

    Yet the oddest quirk of the art is that almost all the ponies have very short snouts. I looked through and the only time their snouts extend past the curve of their faces is when a pony is seen in profile. Flim and Flam are the only two who have extended muzzles. It doesn't diminish the artwork but it does create a more human-like appearance to their expressions.

    Oh, this face is in the manga as well. I won't say where!

    This volume features eight chapters, each containing a stand-alone story. It's here that we delve into a vague idea: the story's flavor.

    Not at all what I meant!

    Have you ever witnessed a story that took itself very seriously despite the oddities within? Maybe this made the story so bad it was funny or perhaps it was just unpleasant. Often times stories seem to ask us to view them in a certain light, and thus our reception is based on how well this message carries. I can safely say that this volume's goal is pure comedy.

    Giant combs are funny. 
    Just 'cause.

    Each page serves as a comic strip that progresses the story but has its own punchline. This steady beat of humor drives home that this isn't meant to be taken seriously. Case in point, Chapter One features the risk of Pinkie Pie being lost in a multiverse. There is a single panel where Twilight fears that she might never see her friend again, but the punchline immediately closes down any dread. This story doesn't want you to take it seriously, and so you could put down a chapter midway and still feel like you've gotten some good laughs.

    Here we have trying to inject humor into a serious moment.
    It doesn't totally subvert because of the art.

    Given that humor is the goal it makes sense that Pinkie is one of the most recurring characters. I haven't counted panels to determine how often she appears, but she does have a role in almost every chapter. Yet I would argue that Pinkie is not the funniest character. She has some great one-liners and comical perceptions so it's not as if she's wasting time. I found Chapter Four to be the funniest as it featured the Mane Six attempting to accomplish a goal and being perpetually frustrated.

    Rainbow has a similar experience in the manga.

    It's good I found it so funny, because if this volume were asking me to take it seriously or be more character-driven, I think I'd be frustrated. If you consider the consequences of each event, it might sour the experience. That's because these are stories that don't worry about consequence or development. It's asking you to have fun in the moment and then put it down. The characters are fun and interesting, but are not changed by their experiences.

    This is in the manga as well. Kind of. Did they know about this?
    I can't rule out coincidence, but it makes one wonder!

    That's not to say that characters are often misrepresented. The most contradictory moment was when Applebloom eagerly watched misfortune approached Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. We never see if Applebloom has her cutie mark, so this could be before their reconciliation, but we do see her mark in a CMC-centric chapter. Makes it hard to suspend disbelief.

    Look at that wave. Can you stay mad at her in a scene like this?

    At the same time there is a chapter where Princess Celestia gets a tour of Ponyville and much of the humor lies in her reactions. There are some liberties taken but it never feels like this is any character other than Celestia herself. Seeing this other side of her is a welcome experience.

    It's fun when Celestia breaks decorum and allows herself to be expressive.

    There is a second flavor to this collection and it will sound strange when I describe it: Fan Fiction. Much of the stories draw heavily on both the show's history and fandom lore. You'll find references to Dr. Whooves and his muffin-themed companion, a direct quote from Shed.mov, even Twilicane. Clearly Lumsdon is both a fan of the show and active within the brony fandom.

    Of all the things in the fandom they could mention,
    they went with this. Yay?

    So why do I use "fan fiction" as a description? I'm relying on SFDebris and a statement he made while reviewing And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer. Fan Fiction often features heavy reliance on show history and reintegrating characters. Sometimes there's very little that's added to the world lest it risk contradiction. These chapters feature a wealth of background characters who are faithfully represented but rarely is anything new featured. The biggest addition is Star Dancer, a mare whom Pinkie suspects to be a space pony. She features briefly in on chapter and prominently in another. I don't use this analogy as a derision but it'd be okay if this collection took some risks with new elements.  

    See? Fan Fiction can make friends.

    Though the effort is to match Japanese manga, the writing and humor is very much western-based. The puns at the start of each page are delightful but don't rely on the same double-meaning to which the Japanese language lends itself. The characters' actions and the stories match their western origins. Except for the final chapter, which features a load of references to Japan's various genres. The tasteful ones, anyway.

    Never thought I'd use this again.
    But here we are.

    Ninja clans, high school drama, kaiju, magical girls, and mecha are all present for one barrage. If there was any doubt about this volume's true intent, this chapter finalizes it. It's over-the-top absurd and wonderful.

    You'll have to compare the manga and this and see which you prefer.

    I hope that calling this "Volume One" is a promise that there will be a second. It's fun and silly with enough care and talent added to know it's a work by fans for fans. It doesn't take huge risks but it does utilize a trove of information. I recommend it if you're looking for something that's just fun. A work that you can pick up and put down at leisure and find enjoyment.

    Oh yes. She's in the manga as well.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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