• Let's Look Back: Little Fillies


    With four issues concluded, it's time to look back at this series overall. What worked and what didn't? Does this make people want to read the book or is this sample enough?

    Check out the full review after the break!

    The sisters at their youngest and most encircled.
    Let's get the most problematic aspect out of the way. Artist Jenna Ayoub has plenty of artwork examples on her social media sites that demonstrate a high comfort with drawing humans. Plus she can extend that skill into different areas like The Amazing World of Gumball. Yet the characters of My Little Pony may be a trot too far as the characters often taken on a flatteened appearance, even as the setting is rendered to imply three dimsensions. In particular, the ponies' muzzles seem a particular challenge as it's not clear if they're meant to be flattened or protruding. Certainly, this can be confusing if an artist triest to emulate the show's early artwork. For a time, I wondered if this style was an homage to the contemporary art from Little Women's publishing, which had similar oddities.

    I'm assuming that sister in full view is Meg.
    Such a strange angle for her head!

    If this was the intent, it unfortunately backfired. A cover image might pay the right tribute, but an entire comic in this style proves to be unfulfilling. Yet there was an added wrinkle to the idea courtesy of Discord. No longer resembling the rounded character form the show, Ayoub seemed to the latch on to the draconic part of his species and emphasized such traits. Discord was more three-dimensional than the mane characters, suggesting that Ayoub has more experience with dragons as well. She had plenty of opportunities given that Discord fulfills 70% of the story's secondary roles.

    He does carry the look!
    The final event that swayed me from homage to inexperience was when the Student Six got to cameo. There's ample reference for the ponies, but not a lot of official art for members of five other species. So when they looked a bit to stretched or marshmellow soft, it's more than likely a lack of familiarity with drawing such beings. As stated, Ayoub has an impressive portfolio so I don't doubt that she could improve with practice. The question is will she take on another My Little Pony project.

    Smolder's like: "We only get this much of a cameo?"

    Story: Old vs New
    To go over the general story piece by piece would be a wasted effort. This is a coming-of-age tale, and you need to be there for each step to appreciate the journey. Instead, it's more important to see how well the cast of My Little Pony fits into these roles. Of the March Sisters, Twilight, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy all neatly match the personalities and goals of Meg, Amy, Jo, and Beth, respectively. One could argue that the March Sisters' influence has rippled across time to help craft the Mane Six. While some of the goals and interactions have been modified to suit the ponies, none them seem terribly egregious.

    "And I refuse to work with anyone as un-fabulous as Ezra Miller!"

    I can't say the same for the ponies chosen to represent family and friends. Pinkie does her best to be excentric and comical. The problem is that the March familys matriarch, Marmee is more akin to Celestia. She's composed, firm in her beliefs, nurturing in her guidance, it genuinely shocks Jo to learn that Marmee gets frustrated. Pinkie just doesn't have the personality to reflect this. The only reason she's chosen to be the mother is because she married Cheese Sandwich, who takes the role of the perpetually absent Mr. March. Instead of the Civil War, Cheese's role has been modified to be a settling force in a cats vs dogs war. Instead of falling ill, he draws Marmee away with an invitation to a celebratory party. More on this concept in a bit; after we talk about the biggest disconnect.


    Adore her character, but she's just not Marmee material.
    Applejack is also mismatched playing the role of a boy, Laurie. As effemininate as Jo is a tomboy, Laurie struggles with his grandfather's expectations to become a businessman, where as Laurie seeks to be a musician. Applejack may or may not have been a short-lived pop country singer, but her cowgirl persona is completely at odds with Laurie's dilemma. She's under no such pressures and thus Laurie's entire role in this story is altered. This may be a conscious choice to avoid an uncomfortable comparison between the book's messages and modern-day stories.

    Now try that on an adult-sized Quarry Eel!

    There's a very clear message in Friendship is Magic that makes it a strong comparison to Little Women. Both depict an array of women with different goals an personalities and shows that those feelings are all valid. The only female who doesn't receive this validation is Beth, who is so unambitious that her death the book may be author Louisa May Alcott's way of saying that the beatific ideal lady of the Victorian era has no true place in more modern times. Laurie, however, is not validated in his dreams. Even the March Sisters encourage him to adhere to his grandfather's wishes. Which leads into some uncomfortable ideas.

    Oh, the shipping!

    What's Left Unsaid
    There are some issues that this comic series chooses to avoid. Let's continue the talk around Laurie and the girls' pressure for him to conform to his grandfather's expectations. While there is a wealth of media–including coming-of-age stories–for men, it is a mile wide and an inch deep. Every story I've read aimed at young men eventually comes down to the capacity for aggression, violence, and destruction. A musical soul like Laurie is not allowed to follow his dream, even in an arguably progressive story like Alcott's work. Applejack's portrayal removes this conflict, allowing the story to keep on the brighter side so that no one need consider conflicting messages.

    The lament of adolescence.

    But no matter the gender, dealing with death is an integral part of growing up. Unfortunately, "Tanks for the Memories" was the limit on how far My Little Pony is willing to address this concept and the grieving process. The war, Marmee's original need to rush to her ailing husband, and the death of Beth are all shuffled quietly off-stage using a few winks at the audience. Better to simply send her on vacation and outright admit that the comic isn't going to tackle such an event. Fluttershy fan I may be, but Beth's death was a vital part of shaping her sisters lives and it seems a disservice to the story to deny such an important event.

    It's not a farm upstate, but it's close!

    The last bit is a topic already covered in a previous review. Whereas all the surviving March Sisters married, none of the ponified sisters do. The timing of this is serendipidous because it happens to align with Chelsea Handler doing a piece on being childless by choice for the Daily Show. In it, she calls attention to how society pressures women to have children and how even close friends act as though a woman has been denied something by choosing not to have a larger family. While pressure forced on Laurie is not a 1:1 comparison, I can appreciate the feeling that everyone is trying to force a decision on an individual's life, even if they have no stake in it.

    Would this mean more if they had grieved together?
    My Little Pony chose to have only one member of the Mane Six chose to marry and start a family. That in itself is a powerful statement. However, I think both the original book and this adaptation fall into an unintended mistake. When a presented choice featured a uniform decision, it ceases to be a choice. We have one version where all marry, and one version where none do. If the emphasis needs to fall on a woman's right to decide her own life, then celebrating that ability should feature a mixed set of choices with no one being held as more right than others. Let Twilight marry Flash Sentry and start a family as Meg did. Let Jo choose to stay single. People may cry foul over certain pairings, but it's more important to present a genuine choice with all its myriad outcomes.

    More than a few, but mostly in the second half.

    To Read or Not To Read?
    At the end of the day, this is an attempt to take a classic bit of American literature and make it approachable to a modern audience. Thus it begs two questions: Is it a fun read and does it make you want to read the original book? On its own, I do think this can be a fun read if one can get past the curious art style. It's lively, depicts the lives of the sisters with liberties taken at the end, and it has its own brand of humor.

    I will never complain about a spontaneous martial arts fight!

    If the goal is to make a reader want to read the book, however, I don't think it accomplishes that. I say this as a read of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adding a fun twist doesn't always make one want to run back and check the source material. I did so for the purposes of this review, and the end result is a better appreciation of how Friendship is Magic carried on the spirit of Little Women in many ways. A diverse presentation of lifestyles and goals combined with events that teach the young women to become more other-centered, composed, and appreciative of what is right in front of them. Is this not the same growth we saw in the ponies over several seasons?


    Controversial it may be, but I see it as a symbol of growth and change.

    I think any reading of Little Women that arises from this unique event is born more from a desire to understand how we got here in terms of storytelling. The parallels between the March Sisters and the Mane Six are strong, so I wouldn't be surprised if Faust took inspiration here. Whatever the case, I'm grateful for whatever sources helped shape Friendship is Magic as it helped gather a surprising following with a great deal of creativity within.

    I could see a situation like this coming from anyone's childhood.

    But what about all of you? Did you enjoy this story? Did it make you want to read the novel? Let me know in the comments! I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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