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.
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.
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.
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.