When people talk about the legendary Castlevania soundtrack, the songs that are usually referred to are the “Vampire Killers”, the “Bloody Tears’”, and the “Battle of the Holys” of the collection. However, there is one track that belongs in the discussion of iconic Castlevania soundtracks, but sometimes gets overlooked is “Invitation to a Crazed Moon” from “Castlevania: Potrait of Ruin”. Like the game it belongs to, this track is a bit of a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Castlevania at the time, but after a couple of listens, you realize that it definitely has a serious claim to being considered a classic series song. Also, like the game it comes from, it brings us back to a time when Castlevania was new and we didn’t know what expect from it, something that “Castle Mane-ia” does with “Friendship is Magic.”
Since the episode has aired, many people have come to say that the episode brings back the Season 1 vibe, where many thin plots were carried by other aspects to the finish line, and its’ an analysis I find to be accurate. Analyzed from a story aspect, “Castle Mane-ia” would be yet another episode in this series that would be considered unambitious in that aspect. At the same, this episode passes muster due to how well it’s executed on my other important levels. Characterization, Character Interaction and overall writing carry the day in a way you would expect in the past. Sure, it’s not without flaw, but those flaws don’t take away from how enjoyable this was to watch. Almost as enjoyable as it was to determine who won and lost this week.
Rarity and Fluttershy: One of the unfortunate (and natural) side effects of this show getting older has been increasing examples of character miswriting, something that the two characters in question are no strangers to. Thankfully, this episode will not be remembered as such for either one of these characters. Even though Applejack and Rarity are my favorite duo in this show, “Green isn’t your Color” makes it impossible to deny that these two characters also share a special chemistry, which is used masterfully here. Watching these two deal with the individual desires of each other made for fun viewing, and their individual writing was also top notch. Not only was it refreshing to see Fluttershy mostly scared for someone else, but watching Rarity get legitimate mufti-dimensional characterization gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I now look forward to what the writer can do with Rarity with her own episode.
Josh Haber: One of the X-Factors behind Season 4’s success or failure will be how adept the new crop of writer’s ends up being at writing episodes for this show, and Josh Haber proved to be up to the challenge. Beyond everything else that will be talked about for the rest of this article, the one thing that I noticed is how crisply written this episode was compared to many of its’ Season 3 counterparts. It may not have been up to the level of Corey Powell’s classic first attempt with Sleepless in Ponyville, but it does what its’ supposed to do well, and the writer needs to be commended.
Musical Score: Despite me putting this down as a winner, they definitely could’ve done more with this aspect of the episode, something that came to light after watching the episode for a second time. However, the Piano Organ part of the episode definitely felt like a like a Castlevania track, and I have a feeling it’ll be appreciated as such over time.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash: Put succulently, the reason why I am marking this down as a loss has EVERYTHING to do with the lack of new ground being broken compared to Rarity and Fluttershy. While these characters were written technically correct, it took directly from Fall Weather Friends with only adding those two being scared of the Castle as a variant. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it were for something I observed during later viewings of the episode that could pose a problem in the future. Still, I think more could’ve done with these two.
Fans wanting more epic storytelling: Last week’s Season Premiere indicated that the creative team was ready to take the series beyond its’ usual borders and go in a more epic and progressive direction, and accept for a references to the “Box of Harmony” in the beginning there was very little to connect the episodes. Even the new Diary suggestion doesn’t come off as smoothly as Lesson Zero’s ending result did. If you were expecting more buildup to what seems like this season’s storyline is going to be, then this episode will disappoint you. Here’s the hoping the “Pony of Shadows” actually goes somewhere.
Pinkie Pie: Last week, I found Pinkie annoying because of her coloring book and frosting antics, and this week I found her annoying due to pretty much everything she did in the episode. Had this episode not been executed as well as it did, Pinkie Pie would’ve ruined this episode with anyone of her scenes, especially with her reveal as the “Pony of Shadows.”
If Pinkie Pie continues to get written this way, expect her to be on the short list for my “Worst Pony Award” at the end of the season.
Obersvations and Final Comments:
As the weekend continued on, and more input about the episode came in, one of the things that was a point of discussion was how Twilight Sparkle was portrayed. On one hand, people enjoyed her dorkagasming over the library up to the point where she ignored both Spike’s needs and Angel’s probably connection to Fluttershy being in the castle. However, I have also noticed how some people felt that those actions were the show trying far too hard to show that Twilight hasn’t changed, making her whole portrayal come off as inauthentic. On the same note, a number of those people also cited how Twilight ended up solving the problem in a way that takes away agency from the other characters. It Is an analysis that I find does have merit, especially in light of how last Season went down, but unlike those other episodes, Twilight’s non-superstiious nature harkens back to established characterization, so by itself, it’s not enough to bring down an episode significantly. However, it will be something I hope doesn’t develop into a pattern.
Overall, “Castle Mane-ia” was a fun episode that harken back to the early days of the inaugural season of this show. Even if the story could’ve been stronger, the execution was on the level I expect from this show. Like Princess Twilight Sparkle, Castle Mane-ia shows that Season 3 could’ve been just a matter of growing pains, and that Josh Haber’s well executed episode is a sign of more ambitious and better executed episodes to come.