Super Sonico The Animation Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 284 minutes approx.
You have to hand to the Japanese that despite the often bouts of laziness in the general content, they can literally make an anime series pretty much out of nothing. Super Sonico The Animation is a testament to this uncanny if potentially dubious skill, as the title character is in fact a mascot for a music festival promoted by video game creators Nitroplus.
Of course the recent phenomenon that is vocaloid icon Miku Hatsune is proof that having tangible artistic roots isn’t always a requirement for popularity and success. Created in 2006, Super Sonico soon evolved into a multi-media darling like Hatsune, starring in visual novels and manga strips, releasing music CDs and of course scoring big with a lucrative figurine line.
A Super Sonico anime was surely inevitable which brings us to this release. Studio White Fox were given the task of bringing this popular mascot to life with twelve episodes depicting the crazy whirlwind which is her life. The opener sets the tone with our heroine needing a dozen alarm clocks and her small family of cats to wake her up for university. When she is done schooling Sonico has a modelling assignment then helps out at her grandmother’s bar. Finally it’s band practice time with bassist Suzu and drummer Furri in the rock trio First Astronomical Velocity.
And from hereon in we follow Sonico on similar busy days in which she is either modelling, trying to play music or helping people out, be they friends, strangers or even animals. The “Super” epithet may be the typical Japanese marketing hyperbole they apply to everything in order to wow the consumer, but in true anime fashion, Sonico is portrayed a something of a godsend with her tireless and selfless efforts in helping people and being a constructive member of society.
But we can’t look past her appearance which follows the shamelessly unrealistic and objectified model design of almost every female mascot/anime character. Ignoring the fact she is supposed to be a university aged teen, Sonico is typically top heavy, with a voluptuous body and bright pink hair. She is never seen without the pair of headphones which presumably are bolted to her head – they never come off despite gravity’s best attempts, or if she is submerged in water – which nobody ever questions. A flashback scene shows she even had them as a child!
Yet despite looking like the original Cybermen from 1966, Sonico is the sweetest girl you can meet and gives herself unconditionally to whatever good cause comes her way. She is supported by her grandmother, her band mate, fellow model Ouka – a flat chested lolicon with an eye patch who is mostly rejected – and her manager Kitamura, who wears an Oni (demon) mask at all times, a tactic which ensures his client is not exploited by photographers and others seeking Sonico’s services.
With no overarching storyline the individual episodes switch between reality based frivolity and utter silliness. One example of the later sees Sonic, her band and Ouka on a cruise ship to promote a slimming cream which has the unfortunate side effect of temporarily turning people into food craving zombies! Elsewhere Sonico takes in a stray cat that doesn’t get along with her existing army of moggies, becomes embroiled in an alleged murder mystery and has her friends pretend to be her when she is triple booked on the same day.
By having no clear direction and featuring a lead character with such flimsy origins, the incentive to watch this series is decidedly limited for many fans and while it cannot be defends against accusations of being superficial fluff, it does actually contain some moments of substance. Three episodes in particular stand out to confound us all with its simple down to earth charm and focus on a serious side of Sonico’s existence.
First a young female magazine writer is assigned to spend a few days with local celeb Sonico, and like most people thinks she is dealing with a vain, shallow airhead. Instead, Sonico’s altruistic nature and ambitious drive causes the reporter to look at her own humdrum life! The next sees Sonico on a trip to the mountains for a break and to get some inspiration for her lyric writing, and finally the closing episode sees all of her good deeds from before paid back in kind when her band’s New Year’s Eve gig is in jeopardy.
It is clear from this last episode that the potential for this series to avoid and eschew the clichés it all to readily embraced and offer a show with a deeper and grounded foundation has been unfairly wasted; yet despite this being Grade A fan service cheesecake, there is a pervasive addictive and endearing quality to it that compels you to keep watching against your will.
This might be down to Sonico’s infectious bubbly personality, or the sheer frippery of the escapades the cast become embroiled in or the high standard production values, boasting unexpectedly luscious animation, but after a few episodes one finds it extremely and increasingly difficult to scorn or even hate this series.
This not to dismiss the obvious cavil of how Sonico and friends are objectified and exploited (in fact, when called upon – by a woman – to dress as sexy Santas one man objects to it on those every grounds), which is to be expected given Sonico’s job, but some care has been made in order to present her as a person beyond the big boobs; Sonico could be held up as a positive role model for young girls by dint of her general selflessness.
In conclusion, Super Sonico The Animation is no paradigm shifter nor is it substantial enough to rise above the status of the vibrant and effusive slab of confectionary that it is; however it is pleasantly surprising how it manages to entertain the way it does, and therefore is worthy of consideration should one need a quick anime distraction.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
English Sonico Reveal Commercial Collection
English Radio Spots
Recording With Jessica Photo Shoot
English Blooper Reel
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black