Friday, September 30, 2011

What I Read - Waking Up in the Land of Glitter

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter gets an endorsement from me just for the very fact that one of the characters finds her salvation through crochet, but it's a pretty good book anyway.  Basically, the plot follows three ladies through the disasters of their lives from August to December: Star, a would-be artist who has six months to get her life on track and sell 347 pounds of glass glitter, Ofie, who dedicates her life to crafts of all kinds even though she has no talent, and Chloe, an up-and-coming TV personality who uses crafts as her springboard, yet hates the very thing that is her claim to fame.  The three come together, along with Benecio, a high school boy with an interest in designing handbags, as part of a craft group thrown together by Star, with the sole purpose of creating the centerpieces for the upcoming Craft Olympics.
When everything was going badly, I couldn't put the book down, eager to see how things would work out, or if they even would.  And of course they do, which is slightly to the book's detriment.  It isn't that I didn't want to see the ladies succeed and come out happy, but everything wrapped up just a little too nicely.  *Spoilers Ahead* Star finally has an art show, and of course everything sells, plus she finally gets the love of her life and doesn't even have to try and make a long distance relationship work.  Ofie discovers she's a natural at crochet, and of course she wins the speed crochet tournament at the Craft Olympics and ends up with all kinds of endorsements and a book deal.  Chloe not only discovers true love, but, despite being completely disgraced on her own news show, gets an endorsement from a Rachel Ray-alike and a potential TV show.  Even Benecio gets endorsements and guest spots, and his dad, a former workaholic, dedicates the rest of his time to his son.
And there's one thing that keeps niggling at me: at various points in the book, Ofie's mother-in-law tells her to take up crochet and offers to teach her, yet Ofie turns her down.  But later, she has Benecio teach her (for no mentioned reason), without the book ever addressing that fact.  The mother-in-law doesn't even bring it up.  Not to mention the fact that Ofie claims to only know one stitch, double crochet.  Wouldn't she have started with single crochet?
So yeah, while I enjoyed reading this book, the too-neat ending keeps me from really loving it.  Still, it is very nice to have a book where crochet plays a good-sized part of the story without it being a mystery.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cherry Jam Music Video

After discovering WorldScreen, a little poking around revealed that they have Cherry Jam's video for her hit single, Anything is Possible.  I gotta admit, the song is pretty darn catchy, and Cherry Jam is too cute, especially with her hair swept up:
(I wish the video was better quality, though.)  Okay, so when are the new episodes going to air, The Hub?

First look at New Care Bears Series

Over at WorldScreen, a licensing book reveals what the new Care Bears will look like in CGI.  Truth be told, it's a little freaky.
Now, a couple of months ago I stumbled onto two audition videos for the series (which have since been set to private, naturally), but I didn't post about those here, since I didn't know if the info in the dialogue was legit.  But it appears that it was, as WorldScreen also has a video section where you can catch a short clip from (what I assume is) the first episode.
Tenderheart's niece, Wonderheart

From the clip, we learn that the new series will once again focus on the bears helping kids (though whether it'll be just one ala Makena remains to be seen).  And what's up with Tenderheart having a niece, anyway?  The bears look a little better when they're actually in motion, and I like the fuzziness.  But I have to wonder, is the animation supposed to be emulating stop motion, or is it just bad?

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 27 (Season Two!)

And so a new season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic begins.  Technically, this episode and the one after it are part of season one, but they were saved to open season two, most likely due to the Elements of Harmony making a return, harkening back to the two-parter that opened season one.
The Return of Harmony, Part One
As the episode begins, Cheerilee's class takes a field trip to the world-famous sculpture garden over in Canterlot.  While Cheerilee discusses the various statues, the Cutie Mark Crusaders lag behind and get into arguments.  They catch up once the class reaches a statue of a draconequus, a Mix-and-Match Critter who represents discord.  As the CMC scuffle in front of it, the statue begins to shake and something within it throbs, which goes unnoticed by Cheerilee.  Probably because she's too busy assigning the girls an essay as punishment.  As the class moves on, a crack forms in the statue, followed by evil laughter...
Back in Ponyville, Rainbow Dash's flight is interrupted by a strange, pink cloud that turns out to be made of cotton candy.  Despite Dash's protests that it isn't supposed to rain until the next day, the cloud starts pouring down (say it with me) chocolate rain.  Her attempts to corral the cloud only chase it and others like it toward Applejack's farm, where the farmpony is harvesting corn.  She demands to know what's going on, and though Dash doesn't know, she vows not to leave until she has the clouds under control.  Meanwhile, all the ears of corn spontaneously combust, filling the field with corn, much to Pinkie Pie's delight.  Somehow news of this reached Rarity already, and so she busted out her rain ensemble and came over to see if there's anything she can do, but not really.  And especially not when all the apples grow to gigantic proportions, immediately prompting all the squirrels, and even Fluttershy's bunny Angel, to chow down.  Before Fluttershy has a chance to call them off, all the rabbits in the vicinity suddenly sprout giraffe legs.  By this time, Twilight Sparkle has a new spell at the ready that she promises will fix everything, but despite her best efforts, it does nothing.
To aid in Twilight thinking up a new plan, Rarity gives up her umbrella, and the gift sparks Twilight into delegation mode.  She has Rainbow Dash get all the clouds in one spot, Applejack tie them up, and Fluttershy use reverse psychology on the animals to get them to eat the clouds.  Just as Twilight declares victory due to teamwork, Spike belches up a message from Princess Celestia, summoning all of them to Canterlot immediately.
Things must be grim, as Celestia is actually worried.  She silences Twilight's questions with a hoof, and then leads them down a hall of stained glass windows.  She explains that Discord, the trickster spirit, has returned.  It seems that he was the previous ruler of Equestria who delighted in the misery of his subjects, and was ousted by Celestia and Luna using the Elements of Harmony.  They turned him to stone, but now that they're no longer connected to the Elements of Harmony, he was able to break free.  Celestia calls on Twilight and her friends to defeat him this time, since they're the new wielders of Harmony.  Twilight starts to tell her to count on them, but Pinkie Pie has an objection.  She points out that Discord may be bringing eternal chaos to Equestria, but he created (say it with me) chocolate rain, so he can't be all bad, right?  Her objection is denied, so Celestia opens the magical lock on the door to Canterlot Tower, where the Elements are currently housed.  She opens the box, proclaiming her confidence in Twilight and her friends, only to find it empty!  While the others are in shock, Pinkie Pie blithely saunters out to partake once again of the chocolate puddles.  (She's back by the end of the commercial break, though.)
Considering that only Celestia should have been able to open the lock, there's one explanation, which comes in the form of maniacal laughter surrounding the room.  A voice addresses them, one that Celestia instantly recognizes: Q Discord!  She orders him to show himself, and he takes form in the stained glass windows, interacting with them as he banters.  He reveals that he's "borrowed" the Elements of Harmony, and furthermore, he already knows all about the new wielders.  Celestia demands to know what he's done with the Elements, and so he answers with a riddle: "To retrieve your missing Elements/Just make sense of this chain of events./Twists and turns are my master plan/Then find the Elements back where you began."  Twilight takes this to mean the Elements are hidden in the palace labyrinth, and so Celestia sends them off, with the fate of Equestria resting on their shoulders.
Once the ponies reach the maze, Rainbow Dash decides to bypass it entirely by just flying over, only to find her wings suddenly gone.  Fluttershy's, too.  Not to mention Rarity and Twilight's horns.  With a flash of light, Discord finally makes his appearance, and can't help cackling, "You should see the looks on your faces!"  Twilight demands he return their respective wings and horns, but Discord declines, stating that he only took them to even the playing field.  Their finding the Elements is a game, complete with rules, including that if anyone doesn't play, he wins by default.  He wishes them luck and disappears just as suddenly as he appeared.
Despite their setback, Twilight is still optimistic.  After all, what challenge can't they face as long as they're together?  The six ponies enter the maze, and immediately hedges spring up, separating them.  Twilight calls over the hedges for them to head for the center to regroup, and they're off.  Applejack makes good progress until she spots three apples lying on the ground.  The apples start to roll, so she follows after them, and ends up in an apple orchard.  She's soon surrounded by three piles of apples, which form into faces and introduce themselves as the Keepers of the Grove of Truth.  They tell her she may ask them one question, but she may not like the answer.  Though she has her misgivings, Applejack just has to know: what's the outcome of their quest?  The keepers lead her to a lake, and she sees a vision of her friends calling it quits.  Shocked by this, she's easily swayed by Discord, who hypnotizes her through the Keepers, telling her that the truth hurts, but a lie is comfort.   As she turns grey, the orchard disappears, and part of the hedge opens, just as Twilight passes by.  She's glad to see her friend, but confused at AJ's strange behavior.
Elsewhere in the labyrinth, Pinkie Pie stumbles upon an area filled with balloons and cheery laughter.  As she frolics, one of the balloons trips her up and she falls in a puddle of mud.  Suddenly the laughter turns nasty, and Pinkie wonders what's going on.  Discord shows up, since she, like he, appreciates a good laugh, but Pinkie explains that the balloons are laughing at her, rather than with her, and that's no good.  Discord, now also a balloon, doesn't see the difference, pointing out that her friends laugh at her all the time.  As he spins her head around, the laughter swells, and the voices of her friends (as well as their balloon likenesses) join in, until Pinkie just can't take it anymore.  Discord hypnotizes her directly, turning her grey and mirthless.  As the balloons in the background pop, the exit is revealed, with Twilight and Applejack standing right there.  Again, Twilight is glad to see Pinkie, and chalks her odd attitude to stress.
Rarity, meanwhile, literally bumps into three of the most beautiful diamonds she's ever seen.  Discord appears in each one and hypnotizes her with its sheen.  However, she's able to shake it off, probably because there wasn't as much build up as Pinkie Pie and Applejack's.  But she doesn't last long, and as she chips away at the rocks surrounding the diamonds, she, too, turns grey.  The three diamonds turn out to be one enormous gem, which she heaves onto her back just as a nearby column of rock crumbles, revealing Twilight, Applejack and Pinkie Pie.  Which also reveals that Discord's played a particularly nasty trick this time, as what Rarity thought was a giant gem is actually a boulder.  The four ponies continue on, with Rarity warning them all not to touch her "diamond."
As for Fluttershy, she's been having a particularly hard time of it, jumping at every little sound, so when she spots three butterflies, she's relieved, and follows them to a crossroads.  The butterflies, with the heads of Discord, address her, pointing out she's been left behind by her friends, but Fluttershy is not perturbed, certain her friends are looking for her.  The Discord-butterflies continue to needle her, but Fluttershy rebuffs them each time, until finally Discord gets so frustrated that he just zaps her into being grey and cruel, no hypnotism at all.  The hedge wall falls, and Twilight hopes for best as she approaches Fluttershy, but instead gets snide remarks and a tail whip.
Lastly, Rainbow Dash spots a wayward cloud shooting rainbow lightning bolts, and figuring it's a disguised Element, takes off after it.  The cloud leads her to Discord, hanging out on a cloud hammock, and she challenges him to a hooffight.  He claims he just has a message for her: "The foundations of home will crumble without you."  He shows her a vision of Cloudsdale falling to pieces, which is enough for his hypnotism to work on her.  He offers her a box with her wings and tells her she can either take them or keep wandering the maze.  Meanwhile, the other ponies continue to make their way toward the center.  Twilight holds out the hope that once they find Rainbow Dash, their team will once again gel.  However, Applejack spots Rainbow Dash flying off into the distance, and as Twilight wonders how that could have happened, the sky clouds over and the entire maze disappears.  Discord appears before them, complaining that "someone" broke the rules, meaning the game is over.  He returns the remaining horns and wings and crows over his victory.  To be continued....
When The Hub first posted a preview clip of Discord, I thought he was pretty goofy, and while that is true, he's also a lot more menacing than I gave him credit for.  I'm really curious about how Twilight is going to get her friends back to normal and how they'll defeat Discord.  Or even if they'll defeat him.  I've heard rumors of a recurring villain in season two, and he could very well be it.  Well, all will be answered tomorrow.
One thing I will say, this episode felt kind of rushed.  Even as a two-parter, there's a lot crammed into this, what with the CMC bit at the beginning, the teamwork, the exposition, and then the corruption maze.

Misc. Screenshots
Serious Celestia
Creepy Discord is creepy
Discord pulls the strings
Grey Pinkie, Applejack, and Rarity

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ponies and Les Mis

Okay, this officially wins Best PMV Ever from me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

MLPFiM Season Two Sneak Peek

The Hub's official YouTube channel posted a short clip of the first episode of Season Two.  Beware of Spoilers, especially regarding the appearance and nature of Dischord:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lite Sprites - The Cartoon

In a rather strange move, Lite Sprites only gets 11 minutes for its special, which I guess is a sign of the times, but still strikes me as odd.  The special also has an official title, so I guess it's more of a pilot.

Shine On
The special opens with Prisma using her color wand to make multicolor marshmallows, and then call up "glimmer" the other Sprites to remind them about their upcoming slumber party.  Oh, it's one of these.  Geh.  So yeah, the girls have wands that not only spread color, but act as cell phones, apparently?  Each of the Sprites takes a moment from their work (or in Astra's case, snoozing), to confirms their plans, though Bleak refuses to commit to actually showing up.  Prisma also reminds Astra not to fall asleep, but of course that's just what she does.
Cut to that evening, with all the girls, even Bleak, gathered to celebrate the new moon.  Prisma calls on Astra to light up the sky with stars, as not doing so will let the shadows take over Lite-Topia.  Since this is only an eleven minute special, Astra is ready to comply.  And apparently she has to keep doing this through the night, as Prisma brings up the second matter of business, keeping Astra awake all night.  Okay, if it's so important for Astra to stay up at night, then how come she wouldn't let the girl catch her z's during the day?  Regardless, no sooner are the words out of Prisma's mouth than Astra falls asleep again, which Bleak, our resident snarker it seems, blames on how dull this "party" has been so far.
Meadow's in charge of fun and games, so she pulls out what she considers to be the most fun thing ever: magazine quizzes!  Bleak is not convinced, especially when the first one is "Reveal your inner lipgloss!"  The other girls are into it, though, and clamor for another, which Meadow readily provides: "When did your BF become your BFF?"  For these girls, it's a no-brainer: the day they found their light wands!  Bleak points out she wasn't actually there, but that turns out to be only half true, as Meadow decides to recount the story for them.
It started with them all (minus Prisma) at the Lite Tree, just as they are now, and she had just told a most hilarious joke.  As she remembers them all laughing uproariously, Bleak cuts in to remind her of what really happened: nobody got the joke.  At all.  Brooke continues the story with the entrance of Prisma, who had just had a crazy dream.  They were all there, making Lite-Topia just the most colorful thing you'd ever seen with awesome wands.  Bleak was quick to point out that it was just a dream, but when Prisma reveals that her dream started with them drinking peach nectar, just like they were then, the other girls were hooked.  Prisma continued to tell them about her dream, and how they went to a waterfall, and wouldn't you know it, Brooke was planning to show them a waterfall that day.  Convinced of her psychic powers, Prisma called for them to all visit the waterfall, and the girls quickly followed her lead.  Except for Bleak, who just rolled her eyes.
Down at the waterfall, Prisma spotted some colors from her dream behind it, and Brooke, by way of falling out of a tree and getting tangled in a vine, found a secret passageway inside.  Deep inside, they came to a fork, and it seems Prisma's dream didn't include which one of the two they took.  While the girls wondered what to do, Meadow imitated a game show host, and started to glow.  Which was in Prisma's dream, so off they went, finally ending in a crystal cavern.  There they discovered the wands, hanging from the ceiling, and since she dreamed it, Prisma goes right ahead and grabs one.  This knocks the others down right into the hands of the waiting sprites, but since Bleak wasn't there to grab hers, it instead cracked the ground and caused an earthquake that caved-in the entrance.  Definitely not part of Prisma's dream.
Back in the present, Prisma blames herself for getting them all stuck, but remembers that this is the part where Bleak saved the day.  It turned out that while Bleak was just hanging out at the Lite Tree, the earthquake shook open the opening of a passageway leading to the crystal cavern.  Hearing the other sprites' voices coming from the hole, Bleak leapt into action, climbing down the stairs, and found the other sprites completely unaware the stairs behind them.
In the present, she insists that this was nothing, and when the other sprites persist in hailing her as a hero, she turns to the story towards Astra, who was the one who brought along the extra wand for her.  With everyone safe and sound, Prisma remembered the next part of her dream, and thus the girls put their wands together with a call of "Shine on!" (Um, why?) and blammo, Lite-Topia was suddenly way more colorful than before.  Each girl waved her wand for a flash of light, but Bleak's instead made a zapping sound, making the others think it didn't work.  But for Bleak, it worked just fine, stealing the color from the door.
Best day ever, now that Bleak thinks about it.  With the story wrapped up, the other girls realize that Astra hasn't fallen asleep once.  Unlike Prisma's pet butterfly, which gorged itself into a food coma.  Which is hilarious, of course.  Astra refreshes the stars and even creates some aurora borealis for good measure, closing out the show.

Misc. Screenshots
Bleak steals color
Meadow shows off her breakdancing moves

So yeah, that's basically it.  For what it is, it's pretty good, though there are a few niggling things that keep coming to mind.  Like what was the point of making the main plot of the special a flashback?  I mean, 40% of the show was just getting the girls into position.  Why not not just have the story start where the flashback does, and use the extra time to do more showing and less telling?  (I'd be all for actually seeing Brooke fall out of the tree, rather than just hearing one of the girls mention it.)
Another thing that bothers me is bringing up the whole "shadows will take over if Astra falls asleep" thing.  Mostly because it turns this special from a cute little toy commercial into a bundle of wasted potential.  Who cares how the girls got their wands?  Show the shadows trying to take over!  Are the shadows sentient creatures, or just a force of nature?  What kept them at bay before the girls got their wands?  Don't get me wrong, the special works as is (again, for what it is), but if you're not going to pay off the mention of shadows, then don't bring it up at all.  Keep Astra up because it's a slumber party, or because the stars need extra help without the moon, but don't tease the viewers.
Speaking of the shadows, I find it interesting that they're (apparently) the antagonists in this world, and not Bleak.  After all, from the doll descriptions, she seems to fit that bill, being a rebel color-stealer.  Instead, she's one of the main girls, considered a friend, even if she'd rather be doing something else.   She's also what makes this special worth watchign, at least for me.  I tend to prefer the characters who, when living in a Sugar Bowl, buck the usual characteristic of everyone being nice and friendly (unless they're a villain), and being rather cynical.  Bleak pretty much echoed my thoughts during the most targetting-the-demographic parts of the special, and while I know I shouldn't be too hard on a special that is, after all, airing during the Hub's preschool block, it still amused me to have at least one character being sarcastic toward the others' never-ending upbeat attitudes.
Animation-wise, the special actually looks pretty good.  The girls suffer from basically being the same shape with different hair, but that really only stands out when you look at still images.  The voice acting is decent, but Meadow, Brooke, and Astra's VAs don't quite have a handle on their voices, making the characters sound slightly different from scene to scene.  None of the VAs have done much else (if anything), so that probably has something to do with it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lite Sprites - The Toys

Chalk this one up to the Hub.  As I was scrolling through the schedule page, checking for any new info, I noticed that Maryoku Yummy was sharing its timeslot with something called Lite Sprites.  Having never heard of this, I did a quick search and discovered that it was a set of toys that got an animated special.  The general gist of the toys is that they're dolls that can light up with color.  Not only that, but you can take colors from everyday objects and transfer them to the dolls, and the dolls can share that color with each other and their various playsets.  It kind of reminds me of Glo Friends, with a dash of Rainbow Brite and Star Fairies.
The story behind the dolls is that they're in charge of keeping their home, the land of Lite-Topia, full of color.  Each one of them is in charge of a different area, with names to match.  Prisma is the unofficial leader, in charge of color in general, Astra is in charge of the night sky, Meadow has all the plants, and anything watery falls to Brooke.  Bleak is actually a rebel sprite, who prefers to zap away all the colors the other sprites work so hard on.  This translates to her doll being able to "steal" the color of the other dolls, and if you try to give her a color, it fades away in seconds.  Which is actually pretty cool.
The dolls themselves look a little funky, but I know that if these had been out when I was a kid, I would have been all over them.  But does the animated special do the dolls justice?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The odangos remain the same

It seems Ojamajo Doremi may be making a comeback.  According to Moetron, a new light novel is coming out titled "Ojamajo Doremi 16" that shows the girls as high schoolers, presumably (as the title indicates) at age 16.  An anime is most likely coming, but I'm mostly curious about how they're going to pick the storyline up again, considering how the last series ended.