• Let's Review: My Little Pony the Manga Vol 2

    We may not have any IDW comics releasing in the near future, but My Little Pony The Manga has released its own work. Available for purchase in hardcopy or digital format, we get to witness Pinkie's attempts to escape a time loop.

    How does the pink pony persevere and proclaim promised parties? Check out the review–looped with a few spoilers–after the break!

    I'm tempted to say that it feels like a long time since we enjoyed the first volume, but given the current climate I feel like everything was an eternity ago. So the release for this volume is uniquely beneficial as any positivity or entertainment is a welcome addition.

    You think Applejack is lying, Pinkie?
    Do you realize to whom you speak?

    As with the last volume, the creative team behind this is writer David Lumsdon and artist "Shiei". I fear that I'll be repeating myself a lot while talking about the artwork as many of the strengths shine through again. Given that this is a "manga" style story, the artwork features a greater anime influence in character expressions. In terms of physicality I would still credit the original My Little Pony, as much of the characters' expression has always relied on movement.

    Aw, Twilight finally admitted she's a geek.

    The fact that the comic is black-and-white is not a terrible hurdle. One would think that a world of pastel ponies would be difficult to capture in a monotone visual, but Shiei takes special care with the available grays to denote a colors warmth. Each of the Mane Six features a darker and lighter tone applying to either their manes or coats in a way that keeps them visually interesting and distinct. Funny enough, Pinkie often one of the darker representations as her color scheme relies on different red tones. Yet because much of the expressiveness is in the eyes, this scheme actually helps highlight her face.

    Behold the eyes of madness!

    The one weakness I see is that backgrounds are neither a priority nor an impact. We do get linework that serves to establish important features and the rare cases where an environmental object plays a role features greater detail. Yet the focus is always meant to be on the characters, so it's not unusual for the surroundings to be blank.

    I'm betting that, for Pinkie, this is just business as usual.

    The biggest difference here is that while the first volume featured a collection of several stories, this story features one tale over 109 pages. It is a Pinkie Pie-centric story with minor appearances by the Mane Cast, primarily Twilight and Applejack. Even more surprising is that this story builds off elements introduced last year, with some jokes even serving a key importance as the story unfolds. Dare I suggest this volume is invoking the power of...

    The trade-off is that focusing on one member of the Mane Six can feel like the others were denied a place in the spotlight. This wouldn't be a concern with a more regular basis, but Pinkie was already very prominent in the first volume. I'm hoping future works will shift to give other characters a chance to shine. Another key difference is that while the previous volume was something you could pick up and put down for a more relaxed pace, this one demands a one-sitting read through. Basically, give yourself some time to read this as there can be a lot to track.

    "Oh my gosh! My mane is so poofy!"

    Despite my concerns about over-exposure, Pinkie is a good choice for this adventure. A time loop of which only she is aware creates an instant conflict with her surroundings. Though she can interact with Ponyville's residents, their ability to help or even understand is limited. As an expressive character, Pinkie can carry a scene on her own while everyone else puzzles over her behavior. I don't think other ponies like Fluttershy or Rarity could play off this setup so well.

    Context is a lovely thing.
    But you only get that if you read this volume!

    This distinction becomes important when Pinkie realizes that something is amiss. Though we the audience know what's going on to an extent, Pinkie still has to puzzle through. This leads to a sequence that can feel like padding but it also highlight's Pinkie's mind. Pinkie Pie is at her best when she offer a unique perspective on a situation. Too often it's easy to write her as weird for weirdness' sake, but I think this often does her character a disservice.

    At this point I thought,
    "Predeterminism is cruel".

    Pinkie instead considers ideas that regular ponies would not consider, and her solutions to debunking those scenarios are equally creative. So while we are forced to witness our protagonist come up to speed, she is innovative enough to keep it entertaining.

    Seeing her despair is a fun contrast to her usual, cheery self.

    It's during these events that the rest of the cast get brief appearances and try in vain to find a solution. Even Princess Celestia gets involved through a funny scenario.

    Celestia is getting her inner Princess Peach on.

    But no matter what progress is made, the end of the day restarts the loop and denies Pinkie any real guidance. She has to persevere just to bring everyone up to speed.

    What would a depressed birthday cake look like?
    Probably goth.

    One key difference between this story and similar tales like Groundhog Day or Sunset Shimmer's Backstage Pass is the impact these events have. In the latter two stories, the lead characters undergo a change. They recognize their failings and begin to work to overcome. Pinkie does not experience any such introspection and is very much the same pony at the end as she was at the beginning. There is a moment of temptation accompanying the chance at freedom, but this temptation was never a focal point and so it doesn't seem like something Pinkie would accept under any circumstance. So humor is indeed the focal point here.

    Either Pinkie's had this conversation before,
    or Rainbow Dash is way too predictable.

    After several false starts, Pinkie's journey puts her in conflict with Star Dancer, the one unique character from the first volume. Turns out her humor wasn't just to create something eccentric. It was foreshadowing this conflict, including her Master's interest in Pinkie Pie's psyche. All of it comes to fruition here... and that's part of the problem.

    She's a cutie!

    One of the fun parts in volume 1 was seeing a tremendous number of references unique to the Brony Fandom. This seems to be written by a fan for other fans. Yet as we approach the climax and learn more of Star Dancer's role, those references no longer become winks to the audience. Instead, they become a driving force to create a crossover scenario. In doing so, the creative team takes their most unique contribution and makes her subservient to a pop-culture setup.

    She's also a terrible liar!

    At the same time there is enough cutaway humor and funny appearances by time-displaced ponies that I could still have a chuckle. The only joke that fell flat for me was the final punchline. Given all that Pinkie had endured, this seems like a bad prank.

    Thankfully, this is not the story's ending.

    But whatever the end, the journey was a fun path. It featured great humor, loads of punchlines, and Pinkie was in top form. I'm hopeful that future entries could take the segmented stories format of volume one and combine them with volume two's grander stakes and scale to create a story that gives each character a chance to shine while facing a crisis. Time will tell.

    What good is eating cake if you're not awake to taste it?

    I highly recommend reading this story in digital form if nothing else. Whenever we can go about in public with some confidence, I intend to own a physical copy. For now my electronic copy will give me something fun to re-read.

    Look out, dear reader! She's gunnin' for ya!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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