|Previous: School Daze – Part 1||School Daze – Part 2||Next: The Maud Couple|
|Aired 3/24/2018, written by Michael Vogel (his tenth episode) & Nicole Dubuc (her fourth)|
|Character: Let's get a quick run-down of the Student Six as they're established here. I can say from the outset that we have marvelous vocal performances from a mostly new cast, along with a unique blend of personalities here, not just facsimiles of the main characters:
The first sequence with Twilight sulking and her subsequent conversation with Starlight Glimmer is a great snapshot of her character, and it shows how much of her resolve depends on the help of her friends. Starlight gives Twi encouragement in a literal sense, giving her the courage to do the right thing. And as a pep-talking straight-shooter who's overcome so many of her own missteps, Starlight is the perfect pony for this. Also, I like her reference to "tough love," since the word love isn't used often enough on this show. Let us not forget, these two former enemies now really love each other.
With the focus on Twilight and the new cast, it might be easy to lose sight of how trying an experience this school project is for the teachers, so I'm glad we get a scene to that effect—topped off with a sincere and direct apology from Twilight Sparkle for ignoring their insights and observations in Part 1. It's good to see her taking ownership of her friendship mistakes in a healthy way like this, even as she's prone to pity parties for her more task-related setbacks.
Princess Celestia is probably wise to let Twilight be the one to sort things out here (for the sake of the headmare's credibility), but I'm glad she contributes something to the final confrontation, and her armor-piercing question is backed up by the fact that Celestia was around when the types of ponies put aside their differences over a thousand years ago.
Other viewers have noticed the fitting choices of which pony goes to which kingdom to announce the reopening of the school. Sending Dash to Griffonstone and Pinkie to Yakyakistan are obvious moves. Fluttershy works with Thorax since he's the most gentle. (Notice he doesn't hurl accusations like the other leaders—very in-character.) Between the other two, Rarity is the better choice for Ember since they've met and they have Spike as a common friend. That leaves AJ with General Seaspray, who might prefer a pony renowned for honesty after the incident with Twilight in the Movie.
Finally, I enjoy the pukwudgies for their outright nastiness (though one is seen to be less hostile later). All by themselves they've made the Everfree Forest threatening again. I was surprised to learn they're not original to the show despite the cute name, but have their origins in Native American mythology.
|Lesson: Now I'd like to tackle the School of Friendship part of the story. Full disclosure: My middle sister is the founder and principal of a private school operated by her church, and I've done my share of writing curriculum and teaching in school and church settings. Also, I learned best using traditional methods, but I realize most people don't think like I do and prefer something a little different.
Running a school requires more than bricks, books, and brains. Within its appropriate scope, it needs to serve the needs of its students so that they grow as people as they grow in knowledge. Teens like the Student Six need an outlet for physical exercise as well as creative expression. They're building their own sense of self-definition and self-efficacy. But they're also moving toward mature socialization, so they must have ways to participate meaningfully in the events they're part of and have positive interactions not only with their peers but with adults of various generations. Teens are also driven to test boundaries as they learn to balance their growing independence with their proper place in the world and develop a theory of mind that acknowledges other people's differing perspectives and sensibilities. All that is besides the actual curriculum, and schools aren't solely responsible for all this. But they are where young people spend the plurality of their waking hours outside the home, and a School of Friendship would need to be especially attuned to all these elements.
So what about the rules? It's worth noting that while the song in the finale says "The only rule here is to find your way," it takes a meter-thick manual for Twilight to flesh all that out. My guess is that seeking the student's best path to learning is the over-arching principle—the "only rule," if you will—as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach of the EEA. But to operate efficiently, any learning environment requires a few guidelines. Some examples:
All that is to say, the ways to do school right are very basic and easily adaptable to a wide variety of topics, contexts, and learning styles. Most of it's more about good judgment than about method. But it takes some experience to learn to separate the principles from the teaching methods Twilight is used to, plus a mind that's open to diversity and new possibilities, something that may be beyond Chancellor Neighsay's capacity.
|Resonance: As My Little Pony Part 2's go, this is downright breezy. Not a lot of serious drama, the "kingdoms at war" bit is fairly understated (though undoubtedly scary in-universe), and the only real peril is the pukwudgie attack. But the lighter mood doesn't mean a mundane story. These twenty-two minutes are packed full of fun. The attack provides our characters a chance to show themselves ready for combat. Points to Silverstream for saving Yona from the initial assault. All the teachers get their moments protecting the students. Even Spike gets in on the action, and I like seeing the two birds fetching a pukwudgie for Fluttershy to bother.
The comedy comes heavy in this episode. Pinkie is at the top of her game, with her apparent facility with pity parties, her line, "Do we still get to guess?" and a full set of personalized confetti cannons. And her exchange with Fluttershy makes me wish for an episode featuring shrimp. We get a delightful gag with five of the ponies trying to cram through the doorway to follow Sandbar, with Spike, Starlight, and Twilight tagging along casually. The students likewise entertain with Yona's wheel-hooved cupcake charge, Gallus's braid-tripping assist, and the sight of Yona Yak panting like a dog. The Bugbear is a terrific choice of form for Ocellus, and Silverstream's fascination with stairs becomes even funnier when she gives a perfectly valid reason for her interest.
Fluttershy gets a laugh for absently decking a pukwudgie with an EEA rulebook, and Yona gets one more smile from me by her "Not bad for pony" delivery and facial expressions. We also see Angel Bunny attending Starlight Glimmer's class for some reason, and he seems pretty happy about it. I'll also mention a couple heartwarming moments, as Silverstream misses her family and Thorax shows some tenderness to Ocellus during the conclusion.
|Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Perhaps surprisingly, the writers didn't consult education professionals for the school arc but instead wrote from their own memories as former students. That's valid, inasmuch as the stories will probably be presented mostly from the students' perspective. Also, I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of realism here. Running a school is extraordinarily complex and emotionally taxing, involves a lot of unfortunate trade-offs, and any changes take more time than a series like this could reasonably accommodate. Part of the point of setting a story in a magical land is so that your story ideas and their presentation are not unduly restricted by reality.
The show's animation quality has been stellar for a long time at this point, so I didn't expect any major upgrades here. But we do get a few nice rotating camera shots. The story is nicely split into segments involving the Mane Six and company, the other kingdoms, the students, and the reopening of the school. The story does a decent job with the whole load of characters, but I'm glad we close on a moment with Twilight and her friends. In the end, School Daze is fun and engaging in both parts, and it also gets me curious and excited to see what Season 8 has to offer as the show sets out into new territory.
School Daze – Parts 1 and 2 armor rating: Crystal Mail
Ranked 5th and 6th of 26 season-eight episodes
Ranked 54th and 55th of 233 stories overall
|Previous: School Daze – Part 1||School Daze – Part 2||Next: The Maud Couple|