Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: My Little Pony: The Elements of Harmony: Friendship is Magic: The Official Guidebook

For purchasing information, click here

Some of you may be recall that a licensed "guidebook" with a ridiculously long title (we'll just call it Elements of Harmony, for sanity's sake) was released earlier this month.  Well, I was gifted a copy, and now I'm here to tell you whether or not to buy it!  Click down below the break for my thoughts.

Thoughts before reading:  I was vaguely aware of Elements of Harmony before I received my copy; when I found that the book would have a number of sketch reproductions, it briefly piqued my interest, but nothing else that was going to be included sounded like it would be of much interest to me.  Further, it wasn't clear to me if this book was actually aimed at the adult fandom or not; the aforementioned sketches and an interview with Lauren Faust (about which more in a minute) would seem to suggest that yes, this book is intended for "us," but the actual marketing that I've seen has been decidedly kid-oriented.

Review:  The first thing I noticed about my copy was its size; it's only about 8" x 6", comparable to a small trade paperback.  I was sort of expecting something in the coffee-table book range, size-wise, and given that the sketches were the main draw for me (and presumably, for many other adult fans contemplating purchase), the relatively small dimensions were a disappointment.  Said sketches are great to see, they really are, but many are too tiny to appreciate properly.  Detail-heavy images such as a pre-production sketch of the Ponyville Library are shrunken down slightly smaller than a folded-up dollar bill, and even with the high print quality, it's hard to see much in them.

The content breaks down into two broad categories: interviews and quotes from people associated with the show, and filler.  The filler is the usual guidebook assortment: summaries of all the episodes to date, lyrics of all the songs in the first three seasons, character bios, and the like.  Anyone buying who's ever bought an "official guidebook" presumably knows what they're in for on this front.  The only things which might be a draw here are the names for background ponies (so now if you ever want to win an internet argument with someone, you have an "official" source which claims that Bon-Bon's name is really "Sweetie Drops," that Carrot Top is "Golden Harvest," and so on), and I did get a chuckle out of the fact that, while Derpy is pictured in the "Cloudsdale Ponies" lineup, she conspicuously isn't given a name, and her eyes are closed.  There's also a reproduction of the book Twilight was reading at the beginning of the pilot at the start of the book, but as with the sketches, the small size of Elements of Harmony meant that there wasn't any significant increase in detail compared to just watching the show.

The interviews and quotes, however, I enjoyed.  While there's not a lot of new information presented here so far as worldbuilding or story elements go, there are plenty of little tidbits and items of crew trivia that are interesting enough in their own right.  Perhaps not everyone cares if Jim Miller's (storyboard supervisor) favorite character to work on is Rainbow Dash, but the quotes and factoids sprinkled throughout the book do end up giving a little bit of insight into the people who work on the show.  And whether intentionally or not, the book does contain one quote from Lauren Faust which is interesting in that it hints at how the direction of the show changed after she left.  Whether that change is a good or bad thing, I'll leave to you, but compare the events of season three and Equestria Girls to this nugget:
I thought it was important to keep the Elements of Harmony extremely revered... When they're not in use, they are kept in a stoic cathedral.  When they are used, they are used quickly and powerfully, so they don't suffer the indignity of just being jewelry to wear.
Speaking of, Faust gave a several page interview and wrote a forward to the book, both of which are absolutely worth reading for some insight into why she thinks FiM has been such a success, and the state of girl's entertainment generally.  That said, her opinions on those matters have been covered pretty extensively; even here there's not much in the way of new information (at least, new to anyone with a moderate familiarity with the fandom).

Recommendation:  Unfortunately, there's not a lot here to recommend.  Perhaps 90% of the book's 250-odd pages are dedicated to episode summaries and other filler unlikely to interest most moderate to serious fans.  For the rest, size is often a hindrance to enjoying the art and sketches inside, and while there are some interesting interviews and quotes, they only add up to a few pages worth of material when all is said and done.

Still, this might be appropriate for a younger fan--the sort whose only experience with FiM is actually watching the show (and who has young enough eyes to make out the dang pictures--excuse me while I angrily wave my cane at author Brandon Snider), and for whom the novelty factor of the book might be a bigger selling point.  Is it worth it, for a list price of seventeen bucks?  I'm afraid I don't see it, but as a gift for a casual FiM fan, you could definitely do worse.


  1. In other words, it's exactly what I would have expected from a book with a title like that.

  2. From the screencaps (pagecaps?) I've been seeing online, this did seem like just a continual summation of things we already know. The interesting bits are all over the internet by now anyway. I'm not sure what I would have wanted from a "guidebook" to the show, but that's not it.