My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of The Bad News Mares! Sports haven’t really come up in the show other than when it comes to the Wonderbolts, and even then it’s more akin to air shows and Top Gun stuff rather than any of the various ball based sports that other ponies can participate in. Sure, there was the Equestrian Games, but we the focus was on setting up for the games rather than participating in them, and probably spent more time with the CMC practicing their routine than on any of the events. Even with this episode incorporating a new sport into the series though, I get the feeling we’ll be talking about sportsmanship rather than… well sports. Does this episode manage to take full advantage of its premise and the give us an interesting game to go along with the drama, or are the writers just throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Applejack practicing some sort of advanced bucking technique when she’s rudely interrupted by Rainbow Dash who’s just bored and is looking for something to do. Lucky for her, Applejack could use some help as her cousin Braeburn from Appleloosa challenged her to a game of Buckball after getting some badass partners and she needs a team for the big game… which is tomorrow… and in Appleloosa. So Applejack is out there polishing her own skills when she hadn’t even gotten a team together!? Eh, maybe she figured Rainbow Dash would come by to bug her at some point and she’d be an easy mark for anything competitive. Sure enough, Rainbow Dash is ready to kick some pony ass at the upcoming game, but there is one problem. SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT BUCKBALL IS!!
Alright, so apparently NO ONE in Ponyville knows what Buckball is (calling into question the legitimacy of Applejack’s dismissive eye roll), but it’s a fairly easy game to master as it seems to be a mix of basketball and soccer with a little bit of dodgeball. Each team is comprised of one of each pony type (earth, pegasus, and unicorn) where the earth pony kicks the ball towards a goal that’s carried by their team’s unicorn while also being guarded by the opposing’s team Pegasus. Specific rules about going out of bounds, how far a unicorn can carry a bucket, and unnecessary roughness are not covered, but they give us enough information to follow the game.
Now I did mention that there also had to be a unicorn on the team and it’s very unlikely that Rarity would be much of a competitor or that Twilight Sparkle would be allowed to compete (though they did let the Avatar participate in Pro-Bending) which means they have to scout talent from the extras. For some reason, they managed to get a whole bunch of volunteers who are as athletically skilled as Tim Tebow (OH SHIT! 2012 SPORTS REFERENCE!!) which begs the question of why they even bothered showing up to join a sports team. They do catch a break however when Snails of all ponies is sauntering past and manages to catch a stray ball in one of his water buckets. Why anypony would need to be hauling buckets of water across town is beyond me as there’s clearly a water supply network in Ponyville, but whatever. They found their bucket whisperer!!
I mean sure, he’s still a minor, but it’ll be fine! Ponyville’s pride is on the line! I’m sure there’ll be no problems carting him across country on a school night! That’s not the only revelation that Applejack and Rainbow Dash had made on the field though. During the tryouts, they got Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie to be the opposing team and it turns out there as much of a natural at their positions as Snails is at his! Now I was guessing that would mean the episode is about Applejack and Rainbow Dash getting over their stubborn pride to let the better players be in the game, but they don’t go that route which honestly was a really good decision. If Applejack decides to stay on the team and wants to keep Rainbow Dash, that’s hardly a case of overblown ego. This was their thing that they were doing and they shouldn’t be REQUIRED to give it up just because someone is better at it. Instead, the two willing give up their starring roles and will focus on being their coaches for the next… I don’t know, two hours plus sleep before they have to be on the train for Appleloosa? Can somebody say… TRAINING MONTAGE!?
Yeah, that doesn’t seem to go well as the two star players don’t seem emotionally capable to carry the weight of the town on their shoulders. All of pony kind under threat from millennia old threats like Discord and Tirek? No problem! An overhyped sporting event between two cities? BEGIN THE PANIC ATTACKS!! Rainbow Dash and Applejack decide to call it quits for the day and the group will meet up in the morning at the train station. When Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy arrive, they are greeted with a bunch of fair-weather Buckball fans who’ve never heard of the sport but have already decked out in the teams colors and are ready to start a riot if they lose.
Okay, so while Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy inexplicably have the skills to be champions, they seem to be rattled easily and will probably blow it from the kickoff… or the whistle… or however this game starts. Of course, Rainbow Dash and Applejack seem oblivious to this so it’s up to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to rain on their parade and let them know that they aren’t gonna play under these unreasonable expectations.
One thing worth pointing out about this episode is that there’s an oddly large focus on facial expressions that show a range of emotion (as well as flexibility) that we haven’t really seen in this series outside of brief bursts of emotion. Sure, every once in a while a pony will explode in this show and start yelling in a very exaggerated manner, but this entire episode has wide eyes and big mouths. It’s not a bad artistic decision (I rather like it when this show goes for over exaggeration), but it feels odd that THIS is the episode that piles them on constantly. Maybe the animators hit some sort of breakthrough and this will be a trend for the rest of the season (and series) going forward, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case. All that said, the animation isn’t perfect as another thing they try to do here in the very next shot is a three dimensional perspective as Applejack and Rainbow Dash are walking down the train and trying to figure out why Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy just had a nervous breakdown. It looks like it must have been a lot of effort, but it doesn’t blend well with the art style.
Anyway, the two eventually figure out that Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie aren’t able to handle the pressure of the situation, so the two apologize and promise to play in the game instead, though under the condition that they still help them warm up before the big game. Oh, but here’s where the twist comes in! It turns out that this practice game was actually a ploy to get Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie back into the right kind of headspace so that they can feel confident in their skills once again. Apparenlty not everyone can thrive under monumental pressure. Some people break down, others take a shit ton of drugs and write a book in six days. I’m looking at YOU Robert Louis Stevenson! So now that the two have successfully been wound down from the breaking point, they agree to play in the big game! Oh, and snails by the way has been good to go the entire time. He’s still a very necessary part of this episode! We cut from the pre-game practice all the way to the tail end of the big game where the score is tied between The Ponyville Donkey Punchers and the Appleloosa Ass Kickers. You’d think Equestria would be more sensitive about their team names, but I guess everyone thinks they “honor the traditions of donkey folks” or something. What’s most interesting to me about this whole game is the pegasus Braeburn found who likes to catch things in her ample bosom and then flex it toward the center with the strength and speed of a rubber bullet.
All these boob ballistics are for naught however as Ponyville wins the match despite none of those on the team had even heard of the game twenty four hours ago. Clearly this is a game of great skill and technique! Also, the unicorn on Braeburn’s team isn’t taking this very well, though I’d be pissed too if I lost to two amateurs and a child.
And so the pride of Ponyville is secure once again, which hopefully means there won’t be riots when they get home! Everyone’s learned a lesson… I guess, and Snails got to have a starring role for once! Well… sort of.
This was a pretty solid episode of the series, and while it’s not very noteworthy for its story, it does feel like an interesting milestone for the animation at least if they decide to move forward with this overly expressive style. The moral here is simple enough and it didn’t bother me at all like most of the morals they try to put forth in this show and my only real complaint was that I find it odd that Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Snails, JUST SO HAPPEN to be amazing at a sport they never played before. I know that there are people out there who have innate talents that make them naturals for certain sports, but it feels a bit rushed that they didn’t even have to practice to be good at it. Not only that, but it also feels like Snails was squeezed out of the episode almost entirely because of how much Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie became the focus which is a shame considering how little we see of the character already. As a post hiatus episode, it’s one of the strong ones, though maybe they could put less focus on the simplistic morals and give a bit more time to the premise and the characters that AREN’T in every episode.