Wednesday, December 21, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 21: Jack and the Ponies

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

Since I began this blog, I've done 21 reviews of 6-star stories.  In that same stretch of time, EqD has given 21 new stories the 6-star tag.

...Ugh.  Well, at least I'm in no danger of running out of material!  Below the break, my review of Moabite's Jack and the Ponies.

Impressions before reading:  Another crossover!  And not only that, but another crossover where I have zero familiarity with the source material!  I've never seen an episode of Samurai Jack, and I honestly don't even know what it's about.  A samurai named Jack, presumably.  I'm going to go out on a limb, however, and guess that the big black demon in the above picture is probably one of the antagonists.

Zero-ish spoiler summary: While researching some unfamiliar constellations, Twilight inadvertently casts a spell the consequences of which she cannot possibly foresee.  Meanwhile, in another world, a samurai sets off on a journey to an unknown land.

Thoughts after reading: Overall, this story did a reasonably good job making itself accessible to folks (like myself) who aren't fans of Samurai Jack.  Jack and Aku are both given all the background that an unfamiliar reader needs to understand their motivations, powers, etc.  The one thing that was never made clear were the teleporters.  I assume those are a feature from the show, but what they are/why Jack wants to use them is never explained.  Since that's a pretty crucial bit of information (without Jack trying to use the portal, there's no story here), some more information on that front would have been nice.  Still, the story is otherwise perfectly clear to non-fans.

The writing is dry and direct.  I suspect that this was a deliberate choice by the author, to reflect Jack's stoicism through sparse text.  If so, it works reasonably well.  The first and last chapters especially benefit from this treatment, but other spots suffer.  Specifically, there's a major info-dump in the third chapter that, while full of important information, drags dreadfully.  I don't know if simply breaking up the monologue with some more character action/description would fix it, but it certainly couldn't hurt.  As is, the plainness of the writing exacerbates the problem significantly.

But although it drags, the monologue I alluded to is full of interesting nuggets.  Moabite does a great job of combining the mythology of Equestria and Samurai Jack, which is especially impressive when you consider how different the tones of the two shows are.

I suppose at this point I should note that, since Jack does travel to Equestria, this is technically a HiE fic.  I know that's a non-starter for some folks, so you can quit now if you want.  But it should be pretty obvious from the description (or the crossover tag) that this isn't your stereotypical OC self-insert either, so...yeah.

The majority of the story is description of a fight.  For my part, I've never found combat narratives all that engaging, but I know lots of folks do.  This is a very well done example, with easy-to-follow descriptions and plenty of focus on creative combat and dialogue, rather than lots of repetitive blow-by-blow reporting.  Even though it's not my cup of tea personally, the battle still held my interest and never bogged down too much.

Also on the subject of the battle, I was impressed by the author's ability to handle the fight without ever abandoning the "feel" of MLP.  The whole conflict is the same mix of serious and goofy that characterized Twilight and co.'s battles with Discord or Nightmare Moon.  Throughout, the story did a good job of sticking to the show's aesthetic.

There are a few minor technical mistakes, mostly in the first two chapters.  These were few enough not to impinge significantly on readability.  The character's voices were well written for the most part (I'll assume Moabit did his due diligence on Aku and Jack, based on his portrayals of the characters I'm actually familiar with), although Pinkie's dialogue was sometimes suspect.  "That was Aku's manipulation!... It could have happened to any one of us, so she didn't do anything that needs to be forgiven," sounds more like something Twilight would say, at least to my ears.

The conclusion to Jack's part in the battle was especially well done.  The whole ending packed in just the right amount of cliche for a story based on a children's cartoon, yet it still resonated with me.  I give an A+ to the last chapter.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

There are some slow bits to this story, and the whole portals thing is never satisfactorily explained.  Still, the battle is an excellent example of how to write an interesting fight scene, and the ending was corny in exactly the right way.

Recommendation:  If you like Samurai Jack, this is a great crossover for you.  If you aren't familiar with the show, it might still be worth your time.  I'd suggest it to anyone who likes a well-plotted fight scene, or who enjoys expanded mythologies.

Next time:  Fair Feather Friend, by Bobcat


  1. As with Portal, I really recommend watching some Samurai Jack. It's completely unlike most other cartoons, and basically pioneered fight scene choreography in western animation.

    The Tale of X-9 is probably my favourite episode, and Samurai vs Ninja displays some very interesting stylistic animation choices.

    I think people who've seen the show will definitely get more out of this story. To me, it felt just like a Samurai Jack episode with ponies (moreso than an MLP episode with Samurai Jack).


    That story was never finished; it was abandoned after the second to last chapter. I recommend you review something else.