Monday, April 27, 2020

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Volume 1 by Katie Cook

One of my favorite documentaries is a series called The Toys That Made Us, and they did an episode on the My Little Pony toys, which was actually Hasbro's first major toy line for girls. The My Little Pony franchise is very near and dear to my heart, because I grew up watching the original My Little Pony Tales, a show that, like Care Bears, alternated between saccharine sweetness and some surprisingly dark storylines, case in point: Rescue from Midnight Castle and Bright Lights.

When I heard about the reboot, Friendship Is Magic, my eyes rolled a little. The My Little Pony had an unsuccessful reboot in the mid-2000s, replete with a McDonald's toy line. Both my sister and I were both in firm agreement that the new ponies were "ugly." We liked the comfortably pudgy ones from our childhood. But the FIM ponies managed to capture that pudgy charm from the originals while giving them a new, human look.

Better yet, the writing and characterization was surprisingly mature. I've seen a couple episodes of the show and the writing was actually decent. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the Arthur shows I used to watch as a kid, in that even though it's clearly a kids' show, it has some really complex moral issues, the ponies are allowed to behave selfishly and make mistakes, and there are a lot of references for older viewers.

Everything that makes FIM so popular translates really well to graphic novel format. This book is about the evil Queen Chrysalis and her plan to turn all of Equestria into Pony Pod People and drain them all of love, before stealing Twilight Sparkle's magic for her own. To make matters worse, she has kidnapped the three youngest ponies (the "Cutiemark Crusaders") to ensure that the "Mane Six" come to her castle.

This book is... surprisingly dark. Queen Chrysalis really is evil and there's even a scene where the ponies marvel that she's not just cartoon evil, just evil evil. There are also a ton of call outs to popular movies from the 70s and 80s, like It, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There's also a hilarious scene that seems to be making fun of bronies, when a "cave troll," who collects toys, tries to capture the ponies for his own so he can brush their hair.


Apparently I received an ARC of this in 2013. Looking at my status updates, it seems like I really enjoyed it back then. I still did, even now. Seven years is a long time and I'd forgotten most of the details, so it was almost like reading it again for the first time. I really enjoyed this volume a lot and can't wait to pick up the others. Anyone who enjoys My Little Ponies will enjoy this book, but even if you don't, I think you still might. Forget that it's about pink and purple ponies and read it as if it's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek fantasy like Steven Universe or The Amazing World of Gumball.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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