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December 1, 2013
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I’m very much in two minds about Castle Mane-ia. It is a homage to the sillier cartoons of the past (like Scooby Doo) and it fills this role fairly well with a mostly consistent plot and colourful characters. But I’ve never been that much of a fan of silly, schlocky Scooby Doo-esque stories.


The characters.

I found the characters to be very colourful this episode. Their dialogue and acting was over the top and a little simplistic. Within the schlocky standards of the episode, they were pretty well written, bouncing off one another in funny and interesting ways.

I liken the main 5 to having the mental ages of five this episode, loveable but also simple. AJ & RD seem to be taking a more brash Scooby & Shaggy routine, their quests for testing each other tempered by them both being scaredy cats. Rarity likes pretty tapestries but gets quickly and easily frustrated (culminating with when she yells at the castle and runs around in hysterics under pieces of tapestry). Fluttershy is oddly stoic for such a scary place, but has a ‘very’ strong motherly angle to her. And Pinkie Pie is a simple minded, party obsessed, gag machine. Whilst Twilight is the mature parent who swoops in near the end and sets all the children straight.

On a whole, I am stuck between their characters being flanderized and that flanderization being done fairly well. They are more simple than the past (grr), but they were fairly funny and fitting for the story (yay). I did find myself groaning a fair few times because this episode does have some crude humour (such as RD bashing into AJ or AJ jumping on top of the pillar FS thinks Angel is under). But in general it didn’t stoop to that level it’s humour was more silly and character based.


The story.

I feel in two minds about this again. The story is very silly (woo! yay! fun!), but that silliness is also a fault (contrived, no logic, dissonant (boo)). I did like how the story balanced three groups all at once and all of them had enough time in the story to put all of the M4 through their arcs. It did a very good job with wrapping up too. All the groups/prices merged together very well and they got a resolution.

I wouldn't say the plot was perfectly done. The spiders plot was raised twice and seems to have been forgotten and for the majority of the episode Twilight doesn't do anything but read. I also found the conclusion of it being PP a great anti climax, unlike Scooby Doo it was obviously going to be her and her justification for being there felt bleh. I also felt a little betrayed for noticing that the organ player had a blue coat, my observance for little details was used to fool me rather than reward my attention to detail.

This episode has a lot of coincidences; all the M6 ‘just happening’ to go to the Princesses castle at the same time, the M6 or organ player ‘just happening’ to trip all the traps and appropriate organ keys and how it all ‘just happens’ to escalate and be brought together at the end. These coincidences aren’t a game breaker for a silly plot, but they do still feel artificial.

The story also lacked impact or weight for me. Not much was at stake and the characters was colourful but hollow. I will admit that it was interesting to see some world building done fairly well. The history of the sisters and their home; now around to see and available in diary form. The diary idea and shadow thing might prove interesting in future. But as with the story, a lot of what was introduced (traps, armour, torches and whatnot) felt like just part of the silliness, and silliness often lacks weight.

Lastly I had a problem with FS’s arc in this story, she is shown to be in great distress about the missing loved one under her care (Angel). This serious cause of distress doesn't mix well with the fun and silly tone of the episode, compared to the more trivial causes of the others distress.

All in all, the story was well implemented for a contrived and fairly trivial story. I didn’t walk away feeling anything much, except that was kinda a fun experience whilst it lasted. It’s a popcorn story, kinda tasty but dry and lacking any sustenance after the encounter.


Conclusion.

All in all this type of story is not for me, but I can see its simple appeal. It is safe, like the cartoons of the past. It doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, and within that light the issues I could take with it don’t matter as much. Sure it was trivial, the characters 1 dimensional and it didn’t have any meat on the bones. But it achieved (mostly) what it set out to do, to be a fun little excursion with a emotive cast that carts you along for the ride.

This episode might not be like the sausage of prior seasons and I don’t personally like popcorn as much as I did sausage. At least it was fairly well made popcorn, unlike the oddly heated mix of popcorn and meat of S3 and PTS.
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:iconandymanx:
What I feel is the purpose of the episode after the premiere (in any season) is to establish our characters' interaction with each other, and establish their character traits a bit more strongly. In Ticket Master we saw their motivations and how they feel about and interact with each other (why they want to go to the Gala, the first bit of rivalry between RD and AJ, Fluttershy and Angel's relationship, etc.). Seasons 2 and 3's followups (Lesson Zero and Too Many Pinkie Pies) focus in on a character, but still have those bits of character interaction sprinkled throughout it. I feel that TMPP did this a bit better in the interaction department than Lesson Zero; LZ's main interactions were between Twilight and Spike, which is always nice to see. TMPP had a lot of good moments of interaction with Pinkie and just about everyone in the cast (not so much with Rarity and Applejack besides the beginning, but it was still nice).

Castle Mane-ia (that title still bothers me) was again about that character interaction, with its bit of Scooby Doo fun. Again we have Twilight and Spike, who work pretty well with each other most of the time. AJ and RD still have their rivalry and bravado, a nice bit that hasn't been seen since Fall Weather Friends. Rarity and Fluttershy hanging out makes sense (see Green Isn't Your Color) and they play off of each other pretty well, each one playing straight to each other's quips (Rarity reassures Fluttershy about Angel, and Fluttershy is a bit indifferent about Rarity's tapestry motivation). Are they flanderized? To a degree, yes, but it's not out of place or jarring.

I'll agree that the Star Spiders (and the mystery chest from the opener) did not need to be brought up in this episode, considering nothing gets done with them. At the very least, let the trap door that Rarity and FS fall into lead them to a pit full of the spiders (not too much, but enough to startle them). I'll also say that yes, the reasons for everyone being there at the same time is a bit out there, but if they weren't, we wouldn't have an episode. It's better than putting them all into one group and dropping them off at the castle.

In regards to your conclusion, again it was an exercise in character interaction and establishing both the characters' traits and the journal for the season. Given that this was a new writer, I feel that this was his way of testing the waters with the series. He wrote the characters well (except for maybe Pinkie), had them play off of each other well, had a nice theme going for the episode, and made it fun. Not the perfect episode by any means (things are brought up but never addressed and Pinkie is a bit too silly here) but I still enjoyed the experience.
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:iconbyter75:
It does seem that generally the most cookey episodes do come after the season opener. Ticket master is the only one in all of these that I've really liked, and even then it's so formulaic and simple it only has simple appeal. I definitely disagree with you about TMPP's, I feel that episode is a bit like SL episodes, the taking of a shallow fan interpretation and then pretending to be deep with it. Pinkie is her most shallow that episode and for all the focus on her character it tries to do, the story is all from an outside perspective of her character. I detest when the fans think that when the show takes their perspective that it is being deep or meaningful. When in actuality the show couldn't be any shallower and more pretentious.

It was certainly about the characters interactions, but if we take their interactions too seriously then they all start to dribble away down the drain of flanderization. As with Daring Don't. External gratification doesn't equate for internal consistency or even for complete external conformation. Again it comes down to tone and what is reasonable behavior for our characters. This episodes' tone is much more Scooby Doo -esque and the characters match that. It's just that our main cast isn't a Scooby Doo cast (as I say in my follow up). They are more complex and mature generally speaking. Reducing them to this comic level is not reasonable given how normal they have generally been depicted this far. The tone is radically different and with it goes the semblance of who these characters used to be.

I recognize that the coincidence is needed for the story, but it shouldn't be so painfully obvious. The strings we hang our puppet on should be better hidden. :/

I don't think he wrote the characters well. You'll need to explain what you mean by that. He made them all play into their traits and interactions. But the tone is radically different from what the show has established. He wrote them well for his purposes, but for a deep feeling character story that builds on the built up pathos of prior seasons it would obviously fall down given how cartoony and simple they all are.
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:iconandymanx:
Oh man, here it goes... Honestly? TMPP is my favorite Pinkie episode. It shows the most realized Pinkie in my opinion: she's eccentric and fun, cares about making her friends happy, and can have her downer moments when things go south. I feel that this is like the followup to Party of One, and improves on it. Pinkie is zany in both, tries to help her friends be happy in both, and has a moment of depression in both. I like how it's handled in TMPP better than in PoO, though. TMPP's Pinkie wants to be there for all of her friends as much as possible and have fun with them. When things get out of control, she realizes that she's only made her friends upset, and that bothers her. Here it makes sense, as she's completely failed at what she set out to do, and only made things work. In Party of One, her depression moment comes solely from assumptions she's made from her own wild frustration. Then at the end of Party, it's all fine because the others told her that it's all fine and she didn't have anything to worry about. In TMPP, she puts forth the idea of how to make things right through the test and passes it out of sole devotion to her friends. You say it's shallow, but... I have to disagree. TMPP is probably Pinkie's best episode to date, at least in my opinion.

Alright, as far as tone, you have a point. As far as AJ and RD's rivalry here, it would have made a little more sense for Rainbow to be the one issuing the castle challenge at least. With AJ being the one initiating it, it does make her a little more childish. Also, Rarity's reason for going to the castle is a bit too contrived. Sure, I could believe she heard about those rumors, but why go then, of all times? And why bring Fluttershy?

What I mean by him writing the characters well is what you said: "He made them all play into their traits and interactions." The tone is off, sure, but the way these characters act with each other and the environment is believable. Twilight is calm and collected, Spike is easily spooked, AJ and RD are pushing each other (for better or for worse), Rarity is looking out for artistic value, Fluttershy is concerned about Angel, and Angel is a bit of a spoiled brat, but likable here (at least to me). The only badly written character here is Pinkie. She was nice in the beginning, but at the end she got a little too zany. As far as a new writer's first episode, he at least showed that he can play the characters' traits believably.
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:iconbyter75:
How is this the most realized Pinkie? You can hold that opinion, but if you want me to accept it as credible you have to show it.
Also, you don't think Pinkie couldn't see the annoyance she caused her friends in the start of the episode? She failed at the start without the clones.
Pinkie in PoO is depressed because her friends don't want her around anymore. This is the general feeling she got from them all avoiding her. The episode builds up and shows us this conflict. Her friends actions belied this intention, so it's not all based on one assumption, but rather her poor logic and the episode rather fast pace (narratively speaking, i.e. the story took a day).
PP was the one who gave the idea despite being the one who is terrible with logic and was depressed out of having no solution. Also the show (and M6) really should know some other better ways to find PP that define her.
You can assert it's the best episode to date. But until you show it, I don't care. Running over the general plots of both of them doesn't mean that much given the complex conclusions you are trying to draw from them. If you wish to see my side, read my review and we should discuss it there.

The whole thing is contrived. It isn't serious so these contrivances can be overlooked. But given the more serious tone of the show it does beg the question why all these contrivances are being added to the show.

For something being believable traditionally in mlp that means they are like real serious characters. The standards for this episode are much lower, they just need to find a niche' and work with that niche' to work.

On Pinkie, S4 has made her little more than a gag factory. It is a shallow look at her character, but given your admiration of TMPP's I guess destroying the depth to her character doesn't really matter...
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:iconandymanx:
I'll just say two things: I don't see how she was being annoying to her friends besides interrupting Twilight's magic at the start. Everyone else seemed okay with her antics. Fluttershy took the time to help Pinkie calm down. Afterwards, AJ and RD offered invitations to different activities to spend time with their friend. I don't see how that shows that they were annoyed. Secondly, Pinkie Pie has a sense of logic, as in Friend in Deed. She's able to make connections with some thought.
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:iconbyter75:
These two things don't really address the lack of evidence or impact of your claims.
Not seeing how the others were possibly annoyed belies a lack of imagination, bias or very high standards of evidence. The characters certainly didn't seem to care for this new and shallower depiction of Pinkie, but that doesn't make it more reasonable or that what she was doing would engender an annoyed response in a more properly depicted character.

On your second point. She did make a connection, just like she made a connection in PoO. Her connection was incredibly lucky. Donkey was pining after a female donkey, well lucky that she lived here all along and not somewhere very far away or someplace he missed. I am not saying that she is completely unable to make links, but rather that her ability to do so is haphazard/foolish.
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:iconandymanx:
I'll leave the first point alone.

I don't know what you're saying in the second one. The connection that Pinkie made wasn't out of luck. She saw the things in Cranky's scrapbook and realized that it shared a lot of things from Matilda's scrapbook. Right then and there, the connection was made, and she went with it, going off of Cranky's comment about looking for a 'special friend.' That doesn't seem foolish in the slightest; it sounds like a sound conclusion from drawing correlations. It is luck that she happened to live in Ponyville, but if she were anywhere else, then we wouldn't have an episode.
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:iconbyter75:
This is your discussion. If you are leaving it, I hope it's because you realize it's not cogent or relevant.

I think we are going to have a discussion about what "a sound conclusion" is, correlation does not mean causation.
I do agree that the correlation was contrived to be a real causation, but that still doesn't make Pinkie's judgement sound unless you are argue that she read ahead in the script, or that she is genre savvy. From my perspective I am not going to rely on 4th wall breaching hypothesis' and just say that she make an unsound conclusion that happened to be true. Something happening to be true doesn't make the judgement to be sound.
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:icontoxicwyvern:
ToxicWyvern Dec 5, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This episode seemed like the show was taking a  breather.  Season 3 seemed to be about shaking up the foundation of the show, so it was relaxing to have an episode were nothing too big happens.   

What I found interesting about this episode as that it combined the character interaction we get in slice of life episodes, with the world building we get from adventure episodes.

Also, I think that Twilight was acted more like a leader in Castle-Mania than she did in the Princess Twilight (which was supposed to introduce use to Twilight being a leader). 
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:iconbyter75:
Yeh it was a bit of a breather.

I don't think this episode was all that focused on slice of life or world building.
It does expand the castle a bit, but it's not about the castle or that expanding the castle will matter outside this episode.
The plot is mostly focused on getting the M6 scared, they are one note. it's not very slice of life, in detailing their everyday lives and interactions, because going to this castle is not in their usual itinerary and they are all separated.

Yeh totally, I didn't even think of that, Twi was much more of a leader at the end of this than the whole of PTS.
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