The Spring 2019 Manga Guide
My Little Pony
What's It About?Come spend a day with the My Little Ponies as a four-panel manga! In this volume Pinkie Pie almost breaks space-time, Rainbow Dash falls victim to a curse, and crab-apples threaten Applejack's family orchard, while Rarity gets an unwelcome surprise about a supposed assignment from Princess Celestia and the ponies notice that they all look…different…than usual.
My Little Pony the Manga: A Day in the Life of Equestria volume one is written by David Lumsen and illustrated by Shiei. Seven Seas will release the first volume in June, and it will sell for $10.99 for a physical copy or $8.99 digitally.
Is It Worth Reading?
This, it must be admitted, is my first real encounter with the My Little Pony reboot, mostly because I have such fond and occasionally terrified memories of the originals from my early childhood in the 80s. (Some of those TV specials were scary!) So coming from someone who remembers Applejack as an entirely different character, this is a pretty fun book. It isn't difficult to get into the story's world, and the characters are also all easily understood without feeling like dreadful retreads of the basic archetypes of children's entertainment. Yes, Rarity is the “beauty/fashion obsessed one,” but she's also not the kind of person (pony) who just wilts when her plans don't go the way she wants or she gets dirty, while other characters, like disaster-prone Angel or not-so-bright Pinkie Pie are well aware of their own shortcomings but don't let them get in their way. If this is representative of the franchise as a whole, I can understand its popularity.
The stories, all written as four-panel chapters, are mostly geared towards a younger audience but have enough little pieces and jabs for adults to enjoy, so even if you ended up reading this with a child there are still bits to enjoy. The worlds-traveling Pinkie story that opens the book is the strongest with its absurdist moments, but each of the chapters (largely self-contained short stories) are fun, with perhaps the slightly too meta final chapter feeling the weakest, or at the very least like an attempt to capture some of what the Ever After High franchise did with its narrators.
It should be noted that this is an OEL series, although to its credit, if you didn't know you wouldn't be able to tell until that final chapter. There's nothing that feels strictly derivative and both art and writing are cleanly done. It' really only for MLP fans, but it's also decent enough that it's a cute read even without being one. If you've got a fan on your present list, this is probably a good buy.
I didn't expect to be in this position in 2019. I haven't watched Friendship is Magic since middle school. And in that way, it is a time bomb, taking me back to a moment I had long-since forgotten. It is effectively a manga form of the still-running TV series, for better and for worse.
So if you don't like the TV series (or were like me, massively indifferent to what was a puzzling phenomenon that you only watched because your friends were into it), this is not the book for you. For fans, however, it is a fun supplement with some occasionally solid jokes and some inventive uses of the new medium (like the villain Discord altering reality to a parody version of multiple different manga genres, lurking in the white space between the panels).
The stories themselves are basically just…additional episodes of the show. Rarity is still haughty and doing everything to further her fashion brand, Rainbow Dash is still a daredevil, and there's even a Doctor Who parody character who made me groan audibly when I realized what he was meant to represent (I believe his name is also 'Dr. Whooves'). It all feels so…antiquated. I remember the height of Dr. Who mania (it's not 2019) and even the good-natured ribbing of manga feels not all the representative of what the medium contains (it's all ninja clans and magical girls and giant monsters); a little out-of-date for how many young people actually read many different kinds of manga.
It's hard to say much about this because it's so…itself. It's a four panel gag manga reiteration of characters who really don't change much and are basically only likeable in their simplicity. It is remarkable how little has changed in the almost ten years since I last watched the show, and in some ways that was a comfort. For all life goes on, thrusting you into different places, physical and emotional, media like this exists in turn, a solid anchor of immutable pleasantness and warmth. Revisiting Equestria and Twilight Sparkle and Apple Jack was, in a lot of ways, like revisiting an old town I had vacationed to in my youth. But even still, in that revisitation, you can't help but be perpetually mindful of how far you've come, how far the world has come. For all you've changed, this hasn't. And I can't decide if that's more relieving or alarming.
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