Tuesday, April 15, 2014

March of the Ponies: Fan Works (Friendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (Music, Doctor Whooves, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

Two very different approaches to parody humor can be seen by the two parody series I'm looking at today.

You'll get my full thoughts on each in the audio, but let me just say that both series execute their styles about equally well. It just so happens that my style of humor is more tailored to one over the other

The two series today are Friendship is Witchcraft and The Mentally Advanced Series.

Before I start, let me say that I believe there are 3 schools of thought on how to handle a parody series:

1. Traditional abridged series (ex: Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged, Gargoyles Abridged) - The story and characters follow the plot of the source material and personalities are just exaggerations of the source counterparts. Most of the humor comes from the dialogue being written more as a comedy and the characters doing meta-jokes about better paths that could be taken.

2. Alternate-Universe Parody (ex: Alternate Reality Dragon Ball Z, Friendship is Witchcraft) - All rules are thrown out. The plot can deviate in order and tone, anything from any story can be shoehorned into the story, there is no real direction for the story, and the characters can be vastly different from the source. Humor comes from matching the voices and inflection enough that you're drawn into the illusion that these are the source characters JUST long enough for the show to drop something nonsensical on you.

3. Combination of 1 and 2 (ex: Mentally Advanced Series) - A story that follows the plot of the source but does so with characters that are drastically different in tone from the original source characters. Much of the humor comes from meta-commentaries about how these characters perceive the world in comparison to their source, as well as the occasional random character/joke.

I am a fan of the first two, but while I can tell what the third is going for, there's too much explaining of the joke and not enough creation of the illusion for me to really enjoy it consistently.

My audio will give my full thoughts, but here are some brief bits of information.

Friendship is Witchcraft

Style of series: AU-Parody
People who will like it: Fans who want to see the characters they're used to re-imagined in as random and crazy a way as possible.
Number of Episodes: 9 (full)
Top Episodes: Episode 3 (Dragone Baby Gone), Ep. 5 (Neigh Soul Sister), Ep. 8-9 (Foaly Matripony/Seed No Evil)
Best aspects: Voice actress has similar-sounding voice to most cast members, NAILS character speaking patterns, can't go in with any expectations as to what jokes will be used, musical numbers are strong, Sweetie Bot.
Worst aspects: Random humor and anti-humor don't work on everyone, people expecting a proper abridged series will struggle to alter their mindset to see the show as intended (in an ARDBZ alternate universe style), jokes can get REALLY out there.

Mentally Advanced Series

Style of series: Combination
People who will like it: Fans who like to see morals turned on their head by simply changing the approach a character takes, as well as those who like to have plot holes kicked at.
Number of Episodes: 11 (Most recent is numbered 12 because 11 was skipped)
Top Episodes: Ep. 5-6 (Retellings of Dragonshy and Look Before You Sleep). Admittedly, I stopped after these so the quality may have improved, but based on what little I saw of the later episodes, it's not much different from its earlier episodes
Rainbow Dash Presents: As a spinoff, its best episodes are ones where it's turning a more twisted story on its head, like with RDP: Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla or RDP: Cupcakes. Any time it tries to take on a more emotional story, like in RDP:  My Little Dashie, it tends to reach for jokes and doesn't work very well.
Best aspects: Show tries to incorporate its own sense of logic into the stories, Pinkie Pie and Thrackerzod, occasional dark humor tends to hit its mark.
Worst aspects: Long-winded explanations to set up jokes, leading to half the joke being missed to evaluate the validity of the first half; Cannot maintain any sort of illusion that the characters are acutally saying the lines because of no similar voice sound, speaking patterns or lip matching.

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