This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the legendary first appearance of video game icon Sonic the Hedgehog. My earliest memories of Sonic go all the way back to 2002 when my brother and I grinned many hours playing Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the Nintendo GameCube. I remember fondly tuning in to the english dub of Sonic X as part of 4Kids Entertainment’s Saturday Morning program syndication block. And up until 2004, I bought every game up until Sonic Heroes. So yeah, I grew up loving Sonic the Hedgehog. His games, his friends, his 90’s “tude”. I loved it all until I (along with the entire game industry) transitioned from 3D Platform games to first person shooters.
It certainly didn’t help that Sega started churning out Sonic games with questionable quality. Sure, people tend to bring up “the Sonic cycle” and I know there are great titles like Sonic Generations and Lost World, but infamously terrible games like Sonic ’06 game, Sonic and the Black Knight, and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric have pretty much distilled the Sonic franchise into a series of embarrassing memes. This once beloved video game mascot has seen better days and only the most zealous of Sonic fans remain staunch in their love for the Chili Dog eating hedgehog. But in regards to the Sonic Boom cartoon itself, it’s pretty damn good and shouldn’t be lumped in with the horrible Rise of Lyric game meant to serve as a tie-in.
Now look, I’m not suggesting that Sonic Boom is the best Sonic cartoon ever made. That’s certainly debatable amongst heavy hitters like the Sonic SAT AM and Sonic X. But in an age where the blue blur’s reputation has been smeared through the mud, I think Sonic Boom is the best thing to ever happen to the Sonic Franchise since the Sega CD (shout out to the Sonic fans who understood this reference).
Sonic Boom chronicles the every day adventures of Sonic and his friends on their home in Bygone Island. Each eleven minute episode involves the gang thwarting Dr. Eggman’s evil schemes but the series itself is more focused on the shenanigans the Sonic crew. Many have initially cried foul over the idea of seeing a blue hedgehog wearing tennis shoes partake in sitcom tropes, the actual result is surprisingly refreshing.
The writers involved don’t try to make Sonic into something he’s not. To me, Sonic has always been a laid back hero who only gets involved when evil disrupts the natural balance. And in the interim, Sonic’s always down to have a good time. I don’t know why our collective nostalgia has painted him out to be some kind of stoic hero (that’s really more like Shadow’s thing and trust me, we’ll get to him) but it’s nice to see that the Sonic Boom crew didn’t rock the boat too hard when reinventing this character and just pushed the fun loving aspects to a different direction.
Speaking of reinvention, let’s talk about the controversial designs. While initially jarring to anyone remotely familiar with Sonic, seeing him and his associates garbed in bandages really didn’t bother me. I mean, the flimsy explanation that they’re adventurers doesn’t make up for the fact that the bandages look silly but over time, the character designs warmed on me. With the exception of Knuckles and Sonic’s blue arms, the physicality of the main cast is pretty much on point with what’s established. Each of the supporting characters created specifically for Sonic Boom like Comedy Chimp and Sticks the Badger are consistent with Sonic Boom’s colorful design aesthetic and stand out with their own personality quirks.
As for the main cast themselves, each is well defined. Sonic’s laid back persona serves as a straight man to the hijinks. Tails is a tinkering genius whose plucky nature makes him great as the butt of some jokes while his intelligence highlights other character’s shortcomings. Amy’s assertiveness and temper tantrums give her more depth than just Sonic’s love interest. As much as I’ve grown to love Knuckles the Echidna as the defender of the Master Emerald and the fighting freak on Pumpkin Hill, the Sonic Boom version on it’s own right as he’s portrayed as a dumb, lovable oaf.
And then there’s Dr. Eggman. If Sonic Boom is a Seinfeldian comedy of errors, then Dr. Eggman is freaking Newman. Eggman still does the twirling mustache, evil genius routine from the games but the writers wisely utilized the character’s Wile E. Coyote-esque failure to defeat Sonic and offbeat persona as a springboard for comedy. The best episodes of Sonic Boom has Eggman acting less of a villain and more like that weird best friend you don’t talk to. For instance, in “Can An Evil Genius Crash on Your Couch for a Few Days?”. Eggman accidentally destroys his evil lair and he ends up becoming a rude guest in to Sonic’s home. Seeing Eggman drive Sonic and his pals insane with terrible eating habits, annoying laughter, and constant attempts for attention is not only hysterical, but a clever distraction for Eggman’s actual evil scheme. This use of typical sitcom tropes (Character gets a new pet, character makes a new friend, character moves into to friend’s house, etc.) with familiar video game characters is where Sonic Boom succeeds.
Long standing rivals Metal Sonic and Shadow the Hedgehog also appear in Sonic Boom but unlike Eggman, they act as they’ve done in the games. What’s interesting is that their no-nonsense attitudes works in favor of the series comic shenanigans. For instance, the episode “It Takes a Village To Defeat a Hedgehog” has Dr. Eggman rallying all of Sonic’s foes for an all out assault against the Hedgehog. Shadow goes it alone because he is as Eggman describes, “edgy and cool”. Meanwhile, Team Sonic spends their time assembling some shoddy IKEA furniture. The “it’s funny because it’s true” humor culminates when the resulting furniture becomes a causality in Sonic’s showdown with Shadow. Sonic is upset but Shadow, without any irony, responds with “Your shoddy craftsmanship brings shame on all Hedgehog kind”. It’s so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh.
In summation, the Sonic Boom cartoon series is exactly the shot in the arm the Sonic franchise needs which is why I think it’s the best thing to happen to the franchise in a long time. In an era where everybody laughs at Sonic, Sonic Boom does that and makes you laugh with him as well. For Sonic fans like me, it’s the kind of catharsis needed after witnessing Sega mistreat the Sonic franchise time and time again. For children who’re growing up with Sonic’s mobile games, they’ll will appreciate the fun B-side stories of Blue Blur and his companions. Overall, I think it’s really nice to have Sonic back in my life again and I’m glad the passionate Sonic Fandom thinks so too.
Season One of Sonic Boom is streaming right now on Hulu Plus with Season Two streaming in the fall. If you like articles like this, be sure to check out the official Patreon page for PeriodicalMedia and help fund the site!