With Great Power: “Inspiration Manifestation” review

“I’ve been quoted as saying that ‘the cruellest thing you can do to an artist is tell them their work is perfect when it isn’t.’ It’s a policy that has gotten me thrown out of a lot of finger painting classes.” – Yahtzee Croshaw, Zero Punctuation; Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

One of the biggest annoyances of being a writer who delves primarily in fanfiction, is that people have a tendency to blow smoke up my ass.

‘Oh, this story is so fantastic, I can’t wait to see what happens!’ They say in reference to my most boring work.

But on the flip side, when people have legitimate criticisms, it’s too easy to dismiss them and say they don’t get it. Or even worse, take personal offence.

One must remember that they are not their work. If someone criticizes your work, they’re not criticizing you, only what you created. But people so easily forget that. I, myself, only noticed recently that the early chapters of My Little Destiny were too over-padded. A lot of things could’ve been glossed over, compressed, or cut completely; but when people told me this, I got annoyed. Oh these peasants, not understanding the artistic narrative I’m trying to develop. Ba-ha-ha…

But they were right, and I should’ve been grateful, but I wasn’t; instead, I was dickish, and suggested they wanted Michael Bay to write the story. But this was my story, my baby, and I worked so hard on it! And that’s the problem: In my mind, I couldn’t separate myself from my work.

So it should come as no surprise that so many people treat artists like Precious Moments figurines; delicately and carefully out of fear they’ll break them, or by smashing them on the floor out of sheer disgust.

But the truth is, you shouldn’t hide the truth from them. If someone’s work is terrible, they deserve to know, because it’s the only way they can get better. You should try to nitpick, and search for errors and problems. And you should never, ever, use the word ‘perfect.’

Yes, I’m talking to you, Spike! You little suck up! For you see, it’s time, once again, to talk about My Little Pony.

Now, we all know Spike has a huge crush on Rarity. I’ve always estimated she’s around twice his age, so one might think it’s a bit strange. But when I was really young, I tended to crush on older girls as well, so it’s not that odd when you think about it. It wasn’t until I was nine that I had my first same-age crush. And yes, I still hold a bit of a torch for her. Well… a large wooden match. But back to Spike. I like to assume that he’ll grow out of it eventually, and move on to ponies closer to his age. He might even have multiple crushes, perhaps around three–hint hint. Or four if they take another trip to Manehatten! Whatever happened to Babs Seed anyway?

But getting back to Spike and his current crush: what always bugged me about their relationship, is that it tended to be one-sided. Often, Rarity will manipulate him, or use him as slave labour, which is clearly not on. And she appears to be completely dismissive of his feelings, or completely unaware.

I don’t like it. And I don’t think it’s right. But as I’ve said before, love causes you to do stupid things, and being completely oblivious of how you’re being manipulated certainly falls into that category. And Rarity uses all her friends as slave labour, so it’s not specific to Spike now, is it?

But let’s ignore these issues, and merely focus on how he expresses these feelings. By sucking up to her, and her work.

Specifically, this travelling puppet theatre that a visiting puppeteer commissioned. Spike loves it; Spike thinks it’s fantastic! And yes, he even says it’s ‘perfect.’

And this really becomes a problem when the puppeteer actually looks at it, and says it’s terrible. Because while it looks very nice, the theatre window is way too small (even without the vases), and while it does have wheels, they’re up on spokes and merely cosmetic. So it looks nice, but is absolutely useless. So he gives her a proper dressing down.

I know we’re supposed to dislike this guy, but I don’t, because he’s right! He asked for something specific, and she failed to meet the parameters. Did she not think a puppet theatre would need to be big enough to fit the puppeteer?

And after all that, Spike keeps saying it’s an amazing piece of work, when he should just shut up! But Rarity’s in tears, heartbroken. Not because of the dressing down, specifically; but because she really wanted to contribute to the Foal and Filly Fair, which is apparently a thing.

Anyway, the puppet theatre is useless, and she simply doesn’t have time to create something new, since it’s the day of the fair. Which only begs the question: Why didn’t she get the stallion’s input sooner? She didn’t think to have him approve the design first? Perhaps a week ago? She always cuts her deadlines close, doesn’t she? I don’t know if it’s a lack of planning, or time management, or just a case of her overworking herself. Why doesn’t she have staff; like a seamstress, or assistant? I guess because she can just have Spike, Sweetie Belle, or her friends be her slaves for a day or two, and be entirely caught up.

It sends a very bad message, doesn’t it?

But back to the task at hand. Spike really wants to help Rarity… somehow. So he goes to the Castle of the Two Sisters because there might be something there that can help her, somehow. And oddly enough, he runs across it!

Oh, this isn’t ominous. A single book, sitting on a pedestal, hidden behind a secret wall, a locked gate, and somehow hovering in void.

He melts the lock, grabs the book. And saunters out of the cavern, completely oblivious to the fact that the stairway he’s walking on is slowly collapsing behind him.

How could he not feel those vibrations!?

The book is for a spell called Inspiration Manifestation. It ‘instantly brings ideas to life.’ Wow, what a coincidence! It’s exactly what they needed.

And when Rarity tries the spell out, it works!

So she designs and conjures a brand new puppet theatre that meets the parameters he set.

See! Was that so hard?

So, now, with Rarity’s task completed, she doesn’t need the spell book anymore, does she? But when Spike asks for it back, she asks to keep it for just a little bit longer.

The next day, we see what she’s been doing with the spell book.

Well… that’s… good. She’s keeping busy. And now that she’s done making clothes, she wants to use her new powers for the good of all ponies!

Without asking permission. She even argues that they shouldn’t tell anyone she’s behind the changes, ‘since everyone loves surprises.’

I don’t. I hate surprises.

And it becomes abundantly clear at this point that Rarity’s completely lost it.

Actually, it was clear well before this point. But once she starts referring to the book as a person, that makes it obvious to everyone but those with their skulls in a vice.

And the episode continues on, with Rarity going around town, design-raping everyone, and not caring about how they might feel about it. Well, anyone except Spike, who keeps blowing smoke up her ass.

Oh yes, Rarity, your changes are magnificent, and they’re not making everyone miserable!

Nope, not at all.

Then, she decides to give Spike a makeover.

And Owlowiscious is not impressed. He’s actually been staring Spike down throughout most of the episode, trying to get him to stop Rarity, somehow.

And with Spike immobilized the crazy unicorn runs off to cause more chaos.

Then Twilight arrives on the scene, and we learn that she’s been trying to get to the bottom of these attacks. But Spike feigns ignorance because he made a promise to Rarity, which he refuses to renege on, because he doesn’t want to lose her friendship.

There’s an old saying: “A friend will help you move; a good friend will help you move a body.” And I don’t know who exactly said it, so I’ll credit it to Rich Hall, who’s obviously an expert on friendship. Now, this is a fine litmus, but at what stage would you say, “Okay, these are a lot of bodies! I don’t think we can be friends anymore, you’re too much of a serial killer!” At what stage would you turn them in for their own good, and the good of everyone around them!?

And I guess Spike realizes this too since, at Owlowiscious’ silent urging, he finally decides to come clean and tell Twilight. But this is shortly after Twilight already left to save two ponies who are trapped in the town hall, which is now solid crystal! And how they’re still alive is any guess, because one would assume they’d suffocate by being entombed in crystal. And you thought my serial killer comparison might’ve overdone it, didn’t you!?

But then, Spike reneges on his reneging, and decides to just steal the spell book. So he follows the trail of destruction, and with Owlowiscious running interference, manages to steal the book, swallow it (somehow…), and save the day. Then she proposes moving on to another city and conjures a gold chariot out of nowhere.

So, turns out the book was never needed for the spell to work. And with Rarity reaching maximum insanity, Spike finally decides to tell her the truth, that everything sucks because of her and all the changes she’s made have done nothing but create chaos! And turns out, that’s all that was needed to end the spell, and wipe her memory, apparently. Don’t see why it needed to wipe her memory though.

But yes, telling her that she’s creating chaos and destruction with her new-found powers was all that was needed to undo the spell. Which makes it seem like a pretty weak spell. I don’t know about most people, but if a friend was redesigning other people’s stuff without asking, I’d tell them to stop! Especially if this is the result:

I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Rarity’s terrible at designing anything that’s not clothes… and even then I’m not sure. Gold and gems and crystals and–It’s hideous!!!

And after all that, everything is back to normal… after Twilight, Cadance and Luna reverse all the damage. So happy endings all around then, right?

I guess so!

If I had to make one complaint about this episode, it might be that final solution. If it’s supposed to be evil dark magic that caused all this, as Twilight implied, it’s a pretty piss-weak bit of evil if it can be taken down by honesty. Basically, anyone telling Rarity that she’s hurting people would’ve been enough to break the spell, yeah? Well, the only reason that didn’t happen was because Spike was the only one who knew, and he was way too loyal and timid to speak up. Any other pony in town would’ve told Rarity what for!

But we can look past this, and assume that the spell was broken, not simply by the truth, but by the shock of someone Rarity trusted telling her she was ‘awful.’ That is, if it wasn’t for the fact that they outright state that it was the truth that broke the spell.

Regardless, this was a really fun episode featuring Rarity, drunk with power. She suddenly gets the ability to conjure and transform out of sheer will, and abuses it instantly. Now, I’m sure deep down we’d all like an ability like that. Imagine if I could just hook my brain up to a computer so it would spit out a thousand word novel in no time flat. But the problem is, it would probably be crap. Not simply because of how rushed it would be, but because the idea itself wouldn’t have been any good from the outset. The fact that it takes time and effort to write a book forces you to filter out the bad ideas, and focus on the good ones. If I could really write a book for every one of my ideas, you’d end up with a lot of shit.

Then there’s the fact that Rarity refuses to ask permission. Likely a side-effect of the spell, but it raises an interesting point. I used the term ‘design-rape’ earlier, and I wasn’t being facetious, because that’s what it was. Because yeah, they might enjoy it; but still, you should ask. Even if Rarity’s designs really were perfect and took into consideration the practical requirements of what was being altered, and even if ponies were happy with the result, you should still ask! And even if you know that they’d give permission if you’d asked, you should still ask! I don’t see how this is a complicated concept to get through someone’s head!

And now we move onto Rarity’s designs themselves. Here, we finally establish her biggest problem: she never thinks in a practical way. Every single design she makes ignores the practical use of the object. Like the giant, gaudy, six-bedroom birdhouse that the bird gets lost in.

And most of the things she makes tend to be hideous, covered in gemstones and bullshit.

And then we have Spike, whose desire to please Rarity comes at the expense of the sanity of everypony in town! If he merely told her the honest truth from the outset, all of this would’ve been avoided. But it would’ve also helped if Rarity didn’t start growling at him every time he tried.

What did you say about my dresses!?

So, I think I can place most of the blame at Rarity’s hooves, since she seems completely unaware that she’s doing anything wrong for the whole episode. And it ends with her memory being wiped, and Twilight apparently not asking Rarity to help with the cleanup in any way! And both those things kind of bug me, since it means she learned nothing from the experience at all. When she had the most to gain.

But anything Rarity could’ve learned might’ve overshadowed Spike’s lesson, which is pretty valuable, and one I’ve tried to adhere to in my own life. You should always try to be honest with artists. If their work is crap, they need to know, it’s the only way they can get better. But at the same time, you should also learn to do it as delicately as possible, and understand that it might take them a while to agree with you, since they may be in denial over their own faults.

Then there’s Owlowiscious, who turned in a fantastic performance without any words. All he did was give cheeky looks to Spike, hoping he’d come to his senses. I loved every moment he spent on-screen! Especially since it also featured Spike, essentially, arguing with himself. We really need to see more of this guy, he just doesn’t spend enough time on-screen!

And finally, it’s really nice to see Spike and Rarity have an episode together, and all to themselves. They haven’t had many over the years. In fact, I can’t even think of one before this. But one thing that struck me about their interactions was the fact that I couldn’t detect much in the way of romance between them. Rarity tended to treat Spike like a loyal puppy, and Spike tended to treat Rarity like any of his other friends. I get that Spike said he had a crush on her, but it’s more than likely that it faded over time; crushes tend to do that. And only say this because I can’t detect even a single bubble of romantic chemistry between the two of them. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a sign of the characters, and their relationships, evolving over time and balancing out. Now, they seem like very close friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But who knows! This might develop into something serious, or it might not. But they both seem happy, and content, and that cannot be a bad thing.

So overall, I really liked this episode. Rarity goes insane, Spike goes starry-eyed, Owlowiscious goes cheeky, and everything else goes to shit. Just another day in Ponyville!

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