Disorder Reviews: Sonic X (2003-2005)

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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I have a new album and a new Disorder Reviews blog. I have recently recovered from a stroke, and I am now in serious debt.

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SONIC X


Director: Hajime Kamegaki
Producer: Takeshi Sasamura, Tadahito Matsumoto
Script: Hiro Masaki, Kiyoko Yoshimura
Music: Yoshihiro Ike
Initial Airing Date: 6 April 2003 - 18 April 2005
# of Episodes: 78
Genre: slice-of-life, erotic thriller, science fiction

The Sonic franchise began with Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), a documentary video game based on the true story of a legendarily fast dine-and-dasher from Brooklyn, and rapidly evolved over the course of the 1990s and 2000s. The series spans over 90 games and includes hundreds of original characters.

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On the outset, Sonic X is a reverse-isekai like any other: as Sonic and his friends (who are now numerous enough to make up a small army) attempt to thwart the plans of Doctor Robotnik, they accidentally teleport to Earth, where they befriend a young boy called Chris Thorndyke and search for a way back as they adapt to their new life. Really, the main plot itself is about as bog-standard as a show of the sort can get, and akin to a remake of the cinematic classic Sonic Adventure 2, except with none of the surprises, mind games, or fakery that made the original version great. And yet, even with such a lethargically conventional story, every single one of its 78 episodes is a must-watch. Sonic X is easily one of the best animes of all time (and coincidentally one of the only good ones), but to understand why, you have to realize the following: its sci-fi and adventure elements are there solely to misdirect the inattentive viewer. This is not an adventure show; it's a Seinfeld-style sitcom thriller with anthropomorphic animals and occasional action scenes.

You see, if the show were to get to the point instead of meandering at every turn, it would simply not last a whopping 3 seasons -- it would be a movie instead, and not one that would successfully make you care about any of its characters. Just like Dragon Ball Z, people may remember all the big moments, but a surprising amount of the anime consists of padding that has little to do with the main story. Also just like Dragon Ball Z, the quality of episodes is directly proportional to the quantity of comedic filler therein. Sonic X is as its best when it brings the viewer's attention away from the plot and towards a character that the executives at Sega pulled out of a hat after a nice little coke bender. Who are we going to see next? Big the Cat? Charmy? The boss from level 4 of Tails Adventure? Taking inspiration from the masters of hyperlink cinema (Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson in particular), the show weaves a grand tapestry of intrigue and comical misunderstandings that turn the fictional American city at the core of the show into a more family-friendly version of The Wire, and offer the cast the opportunity to grow in a way that the main plot simply does not provide.

To illustrate the complexity of the filler, it's best to start with one example and work our way up from there. Remember how Shadow had a romantic thing with Robotnik's cousin Maria back in Sonic Adventure 2? People will generally see the nu metal classic Shadow the Hedgehog as the real continuation of that plot line, but it's actually a mere remake/reinterpretation of his character arc in Sonic X (after all, it released a few months after the show's original run); instead of shooting people up right away, however, he actually manages to hook up with Maria once more pretty early on. As the show unfolds, we get to see the ebb and flow of their relationship, peaking with a surprisingly tender "moment" as a result of a traffic jam that Tails accidentally caused while setting up a surprise that would hopefully allow Cream to forgive him for putting Cheese in a choke-hold on a 500-ring bet that Espio the Chameleon gave him, expecting to make a quick buck without realizing beforehand that Tails' arms have become tough as hell after years of experience in working the shaft of planes. (Sega tried to replicate this scene with much less success near the end of Sonic '06.) However, things go downhill very quickly; Maria doesn't want to go to Arby's with Shadow like she used to, and the latter is beginning to suspect she may be hitting the Five Guys further down the street with someone else. I won't spoil the ending, but it involves a divorce, a gun, and revenge sex with Robotnik's wife (hence why all three are such an integral part of Shadow the Hedgehog).

This is only one of a multitude of character stories, and it works perfectly well as a standalone arc, but what enhances it is the fact that it runs parallel to dozens of other plot lines, many of which intersect multiple times over the course of Sonic X. For instance, as Shadow hangs out with Maria, Tails experiences a sexual awakening after Bean the Dynamite convinces him to make crack cocaine with some of the gadgets he's made; he subsequently causes many of the big mishaps in the show as he tries to get some action with every single female character in sight, with things getting particularly spicy once Shadow and Robotnik suspect he's been having an affair with their respective partners, maybe even at the same time. Much like his arc, Tails climaxes in the third season when he fucks a plant. Mind you, in describing these events, I have willfully neglected a plethora of other skits and sub-arcs, including but not limited to Chaos (the singular being, not a bunch of Chaos) opening a restaurant, Knuckles starting an underground fighting tournament with Emerl, who makes an extended guest appearance to promote the release of Sonic Battle (known in Japan as Sonic Fight Club), the E-100 bots forming a jazz-funk band, Blaze the Cat's crackdown on prostitution rings -- one of which happens to be a Chaotix scheme --, Rouge becoming a lawyer and eventually joining the Supreme Court, Jet the Hawk's quest to get in the Guinness Book of World Records for surviving the most car crashes, Brother Norman's attempt to assassinate the president, and Metal Sonic getting framed for Sonia the Hedgehog's murder. (It's also worth noting that the Chaotix basically spend the entire show trying to scam the other members of the cast, though every single attempt backfires; they end up selling Charmy to slavery to make up for their crippling debt shortly before the series finale.)

Upon reading all this, it's easy to think something along the lines of "why did they put political intrigue in a show where a bunch of animals collect shiny rocks and bully a fat scientist?" To this, I can only say that provoking this sort of reaction is very much the intent of Sonic X, and you just got played by a franchise that has put out maybe three good games in the past 15 years, congratulations. The show's greatest strength, beyond the intricate web of character stories, is the fact that it goes out of its way to put those silly-looking anthropomorphic animals in completely unlikely scenarios for comedic effect, a quality that can be found in the Sonic Boom TV series as well as none of the actual games since then. All in all, it's an excellent watch, particularly if you have kids around and can't play Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel for the 187th time. Furthermore, as someone who knows that another guy is fucking my wife behind my back, I can safely say that the end of Shadow's arc doesn't look quite as edgy once you find yourself walking in his comically oversized shoes.

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PERSONAL RATING: *****
RECOMMENDATION RATING: ****½
LETTERED RATING: LAMBDA


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THE UNDERTALE REMINDER

If you think about it, Undertale is pretty much reverse Sonic X, because it's the kid that falls into the world with all the wacky original characters (do not steal). Sega should sue.
 

SupahEwok

Malapropic Homophone
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Oh hey, I remember catching a couple of episodes of that as a kid. Sonic forming a grunge band and touring in an apocalyptic wasteland seemed neat, and now that I think about it, his search for his mother probably had Jungian overtones for the discerning adult viewer, making it more than just a mindless kids show. Shame I never remembered where and when it aired.