Look, I am responsible enough to admit that I am a Sonic the Hedgehog fan. Not a rabid enthusiast (we all know how deep that rabbit hole goes) but absolutely an appreciator of all things fast and quilled.
So Netflix has finally dropped some episodes of the new animated series, Sonic Prime. Not all of them, mind you – the 24-episode run is going to do batches of 8 episodes at a time, possibly to slow the flow of fan-fiction – who knows.
I saw the trailers for the show and was expecting something that was…fine. It sure was Sonic and Pals having the odd adventure, with a new macguffin and threats to deal with. What I was NOT expecting, however, was some incredibly emotive characters, dynamically kickass action, and the odd tender moment that wasn’t hackneyed and overly childish.
Let’s get something out of the way quick smart: Sonic Prime is not some highbrow form of art. It’s a 3D animated cartoon about a very fast hedgehog and his cadre of animal mates – but it is absolutely firing on all cylinders.
It’s easy to expect very little from kids programming, quite often they will be little more than bright colours and loud noises, visual and auditory waste designed to grab a younglings attention and steer them away from bothering a tired caregiver, if only for a few minutes. There is a clear line of effort that most productions never bother to cross, if only because of the expected audience.
But Sonic Prime has quality oozing out of it. Everything from animation, to score, to writing has real effort put into it – Just take a look at this short battle clip:
The combination of rapid cuts of action and controlled use of slow-mo manage to communicate a ton of action without having a gruelling, gratuitous scene of robotic bloodshed. In 24 seconds, we see three different characters decimate dozens of baddies – with seriously snappy visuals and the odd line of dialogue. Even the enraged yell of COCONUTS from the Egghead himself is more of a punctuation mark to keep things flowing. It’s engaging because it’s really freaking cool, not because it’s obnoxious and demanding. Did you see the neat freeze and rotate camera move when Sonic prepares to YEET Tails? Because I sure did.
The series even takes a lot of care to make sure it’s expository moments remain concise and fun. We all know Sonic has far too many friends, so introducing them needs to be efficient and enjoyable – for example, let’s take a look at everyone’s favourite edgelord, Shadow:
Shadow the Hedgehog. Has a snappy quip about his shoes. Mate, this elicited an actual laugh from me – I have spent over two decades not really grasping what the hell his footwear was supposed to be, and the ‘Hog himself explained it during his own special introductory statement.
There are tons of fun character moments throughout the episodes, and they don’t come bogged down with an expectation to understand the history of the blue blur. The show plays fast and loose with some established stuff, and happily just avoids situations that might bring up stickier things – opting instead to move it’s own story forward and celebrate what people like about goofy video game mascots.
And then, it hits you with tender moments about misunderstandings and why it’s important to communicate.
Thanks to a very convenient multiverse-spawning macguffin, we get to see new facets of every sidekick and supporting character – with a healthy spotlight on how things would be very different without Sonic around. Like come on, I got an entire episode with Amy Rose as the villain! AMY. ROSE.
And that episode had super Princess Mononoke vibes. Yes, you read that right.
What I am trying to communicate here is that I am in no position to properly review Sonic Prime. I have only seen the 8 episodes available to every Netflix customer – and that means there is still 16 more to come, and they could be utter stinkers. Episodes 9-through-15 could well be a grainy let’s play of Sonic Unleashed, exclusively the were-hog stages.
What I AM in a position to do though, is simply make the point that this show has surprised me. My daughter has had a blast watching it, and as a parent I can happily endorse the lessons and action that show offers. This is one of those cases where Netflix has slam dunked a property, rather than half-baking it and then sweeping it under a rug via cancellation.
If you have little people of an appropriate age, you can do far worse than Sonic Prime. You may even enjoy watching it with them.
Sonic Prime episodes 1-8 are available now via Netflix.