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So, who's ready for episode 100?
...Yeah, I imagine I'm going to have some stuff to say about that come Monday. At this point, I'm not even sure whether I'm miffed or grateful that Carrot Top doesn't seem to have made the "surrogate main character" cut. We'll see how it goes. But before the manure hits, let's take a moment to talk about fanfics! My review of Purple Prose's Magical Pony Lyrical Twilight, below.
Impressions before reading: Well, it's a crossover with something I've never heard of, and the first sentence of the description ("What if Nanoha never became the White Devil?") means nothing to me, so I'm worried right away about accessibility. Luckily the remainder of the description is pretty coherent even to a non-Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha fan such as myself, which gives me hope that this will be a story that can hold up on its own.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A set of Jewel Seeds--pseudo-magical items "of great power"--being transported between dimensions end up falling to Equestria, where they "awaken" and begin to violently defend themselves. Luckily, an archaeologist-turned-jewel-collector-turned-ferret has also come to Equestria, and with Twilight's help can capture the seeds and prevent them from harming anypony. Unluckily, she's not the only one who's come seeking the seeds...
Thoughts after reading: Post-reading, I did a little looking into the crossed-over material, and was introduced to the phrase "magical girl series." As I understand it, this describes a whole genre of entertainment common (but not exclusive) to anime, centering around teen or pre-teen girls who wear a variety of elaborate--and often, extremely revealing--costumes while learning to use their magical powers, typically in a highly episodic and/or monster-of-the-week format. That gave me a grounding to understand some of the decisions made in Lyrical Twilight... but it doesn't make the results particularly more enjoyable to read.
The biggest problem with this story, I think, is the dramatic sense of medium displacement which pervades it. Both of the source materials (sources material?) on which this fanfic is based are TV shows, and the author sticks religiously to conventions best suited to that format. Well, better suited, at least--having characters scream the names of their attacks is silly no matter what, but whereas seeing and hearing a character cry "Do it, Raising Heart! Divine Shooter, fire!" would at be high-energy and distraction(-from-the-silliness)-filled if presented properly on television, simply reading the words without any audio or visual backdrop invites the reader to ponder the absurdity of the dialogue to which Twilight and company have been reduced.
More distressing than mere verbal silliness, however, is the transparent artificiality of the setup. Here, I really don't know how much blame to assign to Purple Prose and how much to the anime in question, but the fact is that the vast majority of the elements which define this story seem to exist in absurd or improbable forms for no particular reason. The Jewel Seeds are some sort of doomsday device, it's eventually revealed--but it's never satisfactorily explained why they're semi-sentient, why they're able to harness their own magic to corrupt their surroundings and attack others, or... well, why they act at all like they do. The out of story reason, of course, is so that Twilight can battle them and learn to use her brand new magical device, which itself is an equally ill-explained tool. Looking through the Nanoha wiki suggests that this device's status as an omni-plot-contrivance is taken from the show rather than original to the fanfic author, and if that's true, then it doesn't seem fair to blame the author for the way it's presented, any more than it would be fair to "blame" an author for not explaining why everypony in Equestria speaks English.
But on the other hand, that is a standard that any story in which English-speaking ponies is an issue should be held to; a story where real-world humans travel to Equestria, for example, should either explain why they all have a lingua franca, should have the characters acknowledge that this is a question even if they don't find an answer, or at least could try to prevent circumstances in which the question could be acknowledged from arising. Whatever the source material provided in this case, what I feel comfortable saying is that many elements were not integrated into the story in such a way as to encourage immersion, nor even comprehension.
Beyond the issues of elements used and the effectiveness thereof, there's plenty more to discuss, however. First, plot. Unfortunately, Lyrical Twilight often has long stretches of seeming dullness. Part of this relates back to that idea of medium displacement; combat in the story often involves characters screaming commands at themselves, followed by a description of whatever the characters just yelled, repeated ad infinitum. In addition to the repetitiveness of it, this format makes it difficult to take any of the combat seriously, and as a result it's sometimes tempting to skim over large stretches of story. The rest of the main six thankfully break up this format when they're present, but battles remain a chore. There's also the larger-scale repetitiveness: the Jewel Seeds may provide a convenient and malleable event tool, but no matter how much one changes it up, the battles involving them are all fundamentally the same, with identical strategy-level goals and execution. But on a more positive note, the other creatures seeking the Seeds provide some more varied action, and in their internal debating and confrontation actually serve as one of the most interesting parts of the story.
Second, characters: as I mentioned just now, the "villains" end up being a rather interesting group, even if one of them in particular comes off as very one-dimensional. The girls as a group are pretty well-realized as well, with Pinkie especially striking me as well-written--despite having a relatively small part, she consistently hit the sweet spot between too dull and too annoying. On the other hand, the author takes pretty massive liberties with Celestia and Luna, which has deleterious effects not just on their characterization, but on the setting as a whole. Luna in particular suffers from this; in a flashback, she literally threatens to emotionally violate an entire populace to the point of driving them to mass suicide (and is capable of following through). In fact, Equestria seems to be a very dark place in this adaptation; the Elements of Harmony themselves leave one character a self-violent wreck at the end.
Third, writing. Lots of missing commas, but otherwise little to comment on, positive or negative. Just figured I should put a three onto that list, dontcha know.
It's entirely possible that this story is quite enjoyable as an alternate take on Nanoha, but as a pony fic, or even on its own merits as a story, it's got a lot of problems.
Recommendation: I would only recommend this to someone who was already familiar with the story and genre conventions at play here, and who's interested not just in them generally, but in seeing them very faithfully rendered into text specifically.
Next time: Changelings, Changelings Everywhere, by Benman