Welcome back to the madness that often is called “adapting video games into animation”. Previously, I started by talking about that one classic character that has had more success than most in regards to being adapted, my favorite blue hedgehog Sonic. I talked about his first appearance in animation, as well as SatAM and the anime movie, the highlights of his animated career. Sadly, that means that we’re about to hit the low point very quick. But it does start rising again, if you’re willing to stick it out through to the end.
There really are no words to describe both my confusion and embarrassment about this show. Like, I’m personally ashamed that this show exists. And I’m ashamed that I had to look through episodes to write this retrospective. Okay, this is the second longest running Sonic cartoon, beaten out only by the next entry. Produced in France, Sonic Underground basically tried to capitalize on the love fans had for Sonic SatAM. However, Sonic is now the rightful prince, as well as his siblings (they’re triplets). And they’re also a music band… Oh dear God help me. Again, we use the same design for Robotnik (but sadly, no awesome voice by Jim Cummings), the concept of a planet taken over, people being turned into robot slaves, and freedom fighters whose only useful member happens to be Sonic. Hell, even Jaleel White returns to voice Sonic… but the other voices he plays… let’s get into that later. First, the positives.
I give credit for remembering how SatAM hit on a good story for adapting the games, as well as trying to be different by having the heroes wander the planet. The fact that the hedgehogs are unique balancing points for each other is also interesting: Sonic is arrogant but a real hero of the people, Manic (the green one) is street-smart but a thief by nature, and Sonia (the pink girl one) is well educated but a snob. I also have to credit it with adding classic Genesis design Knuckles as he appears in a few episodes. There, I’ve mentioned the good points. Which means I have to talk about the bad. And you can’t talk about what’s wrong with Sonic Underground without mentioning…
And these are just three! THREE!! Thank God Jaleel didn’t try to sing those. But yeah, the main hook of the show is that every episode has a music video… My ears are bleeding from just those three, especially that racist Cosmic dance one. The next problem was the fact that THEIR INSTRUMENTS ARE THEIR WEAPONS!! Seriously?! Alvin and The Chipmunks had the only working musical cartoon series formula, you couldn’t emulate that?! Then there’s the fact that Jaleel voices all three hedgehogs. Yes, he even plays the girl… which sounds like Urkel trying to be a girl. And if you didn’t notice from the videos, the only designs that look alright are the hedgehogs and Robotnik. Everyone else looks… hideous. And yet, this show does have a strong following, especially in Europe. And I will admit, the quality is better than the Nintendo cartoons of the 80’s. So, that’s the low point of Sonic’s animated life, but it would slowly rise back up… after an initial stumble.
Fast forward to 2003. SEGA had stopped producing game systems, and began to bring Sonic to multiple platforms. One of their plans to introduce Sonic to the masses who either didn’t grow up with SEGA systems, or just didn’t own one, was to produced an anime series. Sonic X was the result, and started interesting, stumbled a lot, and then had a surprising return and final season that defied expectations.
The basic idea is that during a battle with Eggman, Sonic and his friends are warped from their world to ours. Living with a lonely rich boy named Chris, Sonic and his friends try to survive in this new world filled with us humans, while protecting it from Eggman and his mechs.
Like a lot of anime series, it can be divided into different arcs. The initial arc, which I like to just call the Sonic X arc, basically helped introduce the gang to new viewers, and ease us old fans into the new concept. It tended to emulate a season of Power Rangers, where Eggman would send a new robot monster to harass our heroes, and Sonic and friends would have to defeat it. It also served as a search for the Chaos Emeralds. At the end of the arc, Angel Island came, and with it, the decline of Sonic X. See, the show worked, when you didn’t have to shoehorn the various games’ plots into it. The second arc was an attempt to adapt Sonic Adventure in animated form. By this point, Chris was proving to be a whiny pointless character, so adding him to our memories of that game sucked. This then led to Sonic Adventure 2, which was stupid, because trying to explain how the humans created Shadow with the help of Eggman’s grandfather when they established THAT EGGMAN ISN’T FROM OUR WORLD MADE NO SENSE!! Afterwards, the series seemed to be ending, with various stupid episodes following, as well as one cool storyline that involved Emerl from the GBA game Sonic Battle, and finally ended with Sonic basically getting Chris to grow up emotionally before he finally went back to his universe. We all thought it was the end. But then the popularity of the show had them make one final, show-stopping season that would just be surprisingly good.
As that video makes a point, the final season, the writers decided to just go all out and go beyond what the games had done already. The final season, also called the Metarex arc, was about an alien race called the Metarex, who come for the Emeralds. Sonic manages to send them across the galaxy, but the Planet Egg, the heart of his world, is stolen. Chris returns, now a college student turned back into a child, and was much more likable now that he wasn’t a whiny brat. Sonic and his friends build a massive spaceship and start pulling a quest for the Emeralds in space, with Eggman following. The heroes were guided by Cosmo, a plant girl who Tails actually fell in love with, and they found that their enemies were actually Cosmo’s race who became warlike machine creatures. The season was dark, including Chris getting stabbed to push Sonic into a fight, and one pilot the groups meet that sacrifices herself by doing a suicide run on the Metarex. I mean, that video above basically is about Knuckles fighting one of the Metarex generals to the death. In the end, an even more trying sacrifice is needed to save the universe from the Metarex. The series then ends on a more awesome note (more than Chris basically being a whiny brat and then basically being told that he has to grow up). Sonic X was not the best animated series about Sonic in my opinion, but again, that’s my opinion. And I think it’s still of a high quality.
Sonic: Night of the Werehog
Personally, I enjoyed Sonic Unleashed. (The PS3/360 version, not the Wii) It was a good return to form, and the Werehog was a nice way to include platform combat gameplay in a highspeed Sonic game. But this is about animation. To promote the game, SEGA produced a short animated film, where Sonic and his ally in that game, Chip, stay the night in a haunted house. Ghosts attempt to get the two scared, Sonic goes Werehog, and a fight ensues. It’s got no dialogue, because it was theatrically released in Japan as well as on the net, allowing a quick release that everyone could understand. And it was just silly, HD fun. To end this retrospective, I will leave you all with said short film. I hope you get a nice laugh like I did.