Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie
With word of a live-action/CGI movie in the works for everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic blue hedgehog (an overly narrow superlative if I’ve ever said one), it might come as a surprise to non-Sonic fans that this isn’t the first time Sonic has had a movie. Originally two episodes that were pitched as a full anime in Japan before being released as a single OVA, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie occupies a very strange place in the Hedgehog’s history. It was made in 1996, not too long after the release of Sonic and Knuckles but it didn’t reach western shores until 1999, when it was dubbed and released in tandem with Sonic Adventure. Sonic is no stranger to animation; by the time this movie came out, American audiences had already been treated to the incredibly goofy Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (AoStH) and the darker Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic SatAM), though it would take until the early 2000s before we’d get a full-length anime, Sonic X.
The OVA starts with Sonic and Tails hanging out in Sonic’s beachside home before they get interrupted by an elderly owl delivering mail. He tells Sonic that Dr. Robotnik (Also known as Dr. Eggman) has the president and his daughter held hostage, and wants to speak with Sonic directly. Upon arrival, Robotnik explains to Sonic that his headquarters/city Robotropolis has been taken over by a robot doppelganger named Metal Robotnik. Sonic doesn’t necessarily trust Robotnik, but he doesn’t have much of a choice, so him and Tails head off to Robotropolis. Upon arriving, they meet up with Knuckles the Echidna, who just kind of shows up, and they get into a series of fights against Metal Robotnik’s forces. Eventually Sonic runs into a strange robot in his image to provide the perfect match, Metal Sonic.
Canon-wise, there isn’t really anything quite like the universe this OVA is set in. Sonic and Tails are close friends, but Knuckles is just as much so (in the games he’s a lot more grumpy), Eggman is at perhaps his most affable, and the other characters are either anthropomorphic creatures like Sonic or humans with animal features (like the President and his daughter). Sonic is rather fleshed out, backing up his incredible skill with equal amounts of cockiness, being totally willing to tell off Tails and mouth off to the president, and lazily sitting around until he absolutely needs to do something. The world of “Planet Freedom” has a “Land of Darkness” where Robotnik lives and “Land of the Sky” where everybody else lives, as opposed to Earth (games) or Mobius (Sonic SatAM and comics).
Aesthetically, I really like the movie’s look. The backgrounds and settings, not to mention the old school look (not that they had anything else to go on) of the characters really captures the feel of the 90s Sonic games. Robotropolis especially looks ripped straight from a genesis game, in a good way. A lot of comparisons can be drawn to Sonic CD, partly from Metal Sonic’s appearances and from the constant nature vs technology themes. In addition, the president’s daughter, Sera, is pretty much Amy Rose as a cat girl instead of a pink hedgehog, having the hots for Sonic and trying her damnedest to get him to notice her, which he blatantly ignores. While her voice is annoying and she’s a total brat, she does at least get some funny moments, already making her more enjoyable than Princess Elise from Sonic 2006. The soundtrack also makes me think of Sonic CD with its heavy synth and rocking guitars, as Sonic CD was the first Sonic game with CD-quality audio as opposed to that Genesis twang (not that I don’t love the Genesis twang).
Being a movie about Sonic in the middle of his heyday, the OVA definitely has a 90’s feel to it. Surprisingly the “mascot with attitude” aspect is rather downplayed, but the film definitely has the 90’s anime feel, mostly in the animation and some of the mannerisms of the characters. The movie has a lot of moments of fast-paced action with Sonic and company that then cuts back to Robotnik and Sera messing around, most of which isn’t that amusing. Some viewers might be turned off by the goofiness of some of the characters, but I don’t find it that annoying. The English dub is okay; Tails and Sera are at best obnoxious and at worst nails-on-a-chalkboard ear-grating. Sonic, Knuckles, and Eggman fare better but even they get a bad line every once.
But overall, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie is a nice treat for fans of the blue blur. The tone hits that golden sweet spot for Sonic when it’s dark enough to raise the stakes but light enough to not take itself completely seriously. The plot is straight out of the video games, the soundtrack is equally appropriate, and while it might get too goofy at points, it actually feels like a fairly faithful adaptation of the character’s game personalities. If you’re a fan of Sonic, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t a fan, then it’s not going to impress, but for those on the fence I’d say gave it a shot.
Derek Delago is a UF student who is also an anime club officer. He loves anime, video games and rock.