Coming up next on Problematic Reviews

Coming up next on Problematic Reviews

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A (Not So) Brief Analysis: Fallout Equestria: The Radio Play

A Quick Note From Amy: I know it's been months seen I pushed out an update stating that the file had been corrupted, resulting in the loss of some 1500 words, and now it's here. I pushed through a writer's block and an overwhelming amount of school work to get it done so please, enjoy this scene-by-scene analysis of F:E - The Radio Play!

With so many audio books, side stories and even an upcoming animated show of the widely known epic, Fallout: Equestria by Kkat, it's becoming more and more apparent that some iterations capture the huge scope of the canon (fanon?) of the story, but others... not so much. So it begs the question: What makes a good Fallout: Equestria adaptation? Well, I can say the Equestrian Broadcasting Company's currently airing radio play undoubtedly has more potential than most. However, it is not without its hiccups. But I cannot just leave it at that! That would be boring. Join me, my friends, and let us take a scene-by-scene look at Fallout: Equestria- The Radio Play.
It is hard to imagine a radio show (or any piece of vocal work) surviving early reception if the voice acting is less than excellent. Obviously, this is something any project must take into consideration and it fortunate that the Equestrian Broadcasting Company did. A few big names within the fandom pop up in the show's credits; playing large roles, nonetheless. For one, Jessi “Nowacking” Nowack plays the role of Littlepip. Nowack is well known for being the unofficial voice of Vinyl Scratch so seeing her in a role other than everypony's favorite cerise-eyed DJ is rather entertaining. 

Alongside Nowack is Eileen “EileMonty” Montgomery. She is well known for her multiple singing roles throughout the fandom as well as in mainstream media for Dust: An Elysian Tail. So it should come as no surprise that she is playing one of the leading roles as Velvet Remedy. It should also be no surprise that both Montgomery and Nowack deliver excellent performances. However, that is not to say the rest of the cast didn't do just as well. Adam Hastings (Scorch Mechanic) as the Narrator was simply superb, to name one. 

While we're on the topic of production value, the soundtrack and sound design is outstanding. Many of the songs are enjoyable to listen to, making the original soundtrack by Warbalist and Pashoo well worth a listen. Furthermore, the sound quality sounds professional and well edited. Dialogue or music were never too loud or too soft or clipped or sounded like they were recorded using a laptop mic; something that is very much appreciated. 

But production value isn't everything, of course. Fallout: Equestria: The Radio Play has a very creditable team behind it, but how does the play hold up in action? Fillies and gentlecolts, I recommend you give it listen or brave what lies beyond this sentence. For there are:

(You have been warned)
F:E: The Radio Play opens with several recordings, news shows and conversations from the days before the bombs fell. With one exception, these bring the story of the war between Equestria and the Zebra Nation uncomfortably close to home before we hear any narration. Not to mention the chilling tension before the bombs fell and the panic that ensured afterwards is clearly conveyed to the listener without the need of a narrator, something which I can't help but praise.

For example, the very first recording features a filly unicorn and her excitement for her very first day at Luna's School for Gifted Unicorns. This hit me where it hurts because the call to my mother on my first trip truly far away from home alone at A&M University held just as much enthusiasm for the coming days. The second recording takes place after the children at Luna's school were murdered in cold blood and features the sister of the filly from the earlier talking to her friend and chief of the Canterlot Police, calling for revenge against the Zebras, who have been blamed for the massacre at Luna's school. Firstly, it's worth mentioning that lock-down and other security drills are commonplace at my school so the thought of gunmen firing at students on campus is a real threat. But going to an esteemed royal academy and having such an incident is a massive cold water experience. As citizens of the nation to have 26 elementary school students shot in a classroom nearly two years ago, many in the U.S. have no trouble relating. However, this, more than anything, sets the Equestrian attitude towards Zebras, citizens of Equestria or not.

The next two recordings further solidify the attitudes of the Equestrian populace as tensions between the two nations rise. Once again, the radio play avoids intense moments in favor of more personal conversations and the everyday news broadcast. The latter is more informative, confirming the listener's suspicious that the Zebras are responsible for the tragedy at Little Horn. While it's nothing new, the news broadcast helps fill in those “gaps” that the listener might have missed in the earlier conversations, so I wouldn't say it's out-of-place or awkward. The recording that follows, falls back to an average conversation between Vinyl and Octavia and plays two purposes: to show us that Equestria is still divided with some thinking the war with “blow over” while others show serious concern for the state of affairs and secondly, to knock the listener off guard for when the bombs fall.

Fact is, I was not expecting the next recording of army officers panicking as major Equestrian cities go up in bale-fire. And to be honest, this bothered me at first. “Why is this so sudden?” and “Why didn't the writers build up to this moment?” were two of questions I asked myself. Then I realized that this was probably the same reaction the Equestrians had when the bombs fell. Equestria just woke up one morning when the world was suddenly and horrifically engulfed in flames.

However, as well done as this might seem, the execution comes off as awkward and was personally the hardest scene to listen to in the entire play. Many of my friends and colleagues that also listened to the play blamed the lack-luster voice acting. I, however, found it odd that this would be exclusive to this scene in a production that clearly has plenty of voice talent behind it. Instead, I believe part of the fault is in what made the play so great: the writing. Everything we've heard thus far has been hugely interpersonal and to hear a formal exchange trying to present itself in the same fashion is rather odd. I wouldn't say that there's no worth in seeing high-rank army officers, the men in charge of defending the nation, completely at a loss for words as the shock sets in. Nevertheless, there are better ways to handle this; just like in the following scenes.

The next two scenes are probably the most gripping moments of the entire play and while I don't remember if they were in the original novel, it couldn't have been so riveting if it wasn't for the voice acting, editing and direction. It opens with a mother obviously in distress as she sees her daughter trapped in Canterlot with what the mother describes as a “giant cloud of pink stuff.” This perfectly sets up three facts the listener needs to know going into the following scene: a.) Canterlot is under attack with b.) citizens having trouble finding a way out and c.) some chemical weapon has been used in the attack. We now skip to the daughter and grand-daughter she was sending a message to. Both of them are struggling to breathe, presumably from the chemical attack, and gunshots can be heard in the background. The situation looks dire and the mother, in a fantastic display of voice acting, comforts her foul. Finally, with the Fluttershy's “Hush Now, Quiet Now” lullaby sung followed by the dying breaths of the foul, the intro scenes come to a close.

For me, nothing better symbolizes the end of Equestria's prosperity and innocence. The world had come to madness from which there is an extremely difficult return. Not to mention it's straight up eerie to hear! Sure, this introduction isn't flawless. Some conversations could have flowed better and lack-luster voice acting wasn't unheard of (pun intended), but it was a great way to open such an ambition project with impressive performances from most of the cast and brilliant exposition. This has been Amy Clockwork. Join me next time for the second half of the first episode of Fallout: Equestria – The Radio Play.

Continued in Part Two.

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