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Final Impressions: Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO the Animation

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Why was this so good? Anybody?

It was patently obvious we didn't expect much from Soni-Ani: no one on Japanator even bothered to write up a First Impressions for it at the start of the season. We figured it would be a vapid, 12-episode long commercial for super-curvy Nitroplus mascot Super Sonico, and all the merchandise that goes along with that.

While it did serve as a commercial for the pink-haired mascot, where we were wrong (DEAD wrong) was the "vapid" part. Instead of feeling like an empty shell of a show designed to sell PVC figures, Soni-Ani proved itself to be a consistently entertaining, and often even heartwarming, slice-of-life show. With Sonico herself, the show provided the kind of sweet-yet-not-saccharine young girl character that so many shows try to present and fail. Even more wisely, the writers knew when to take the focus off Sonico and let the quirky supporting cast shine instead.

Naturally, the show isn't going to be knocking Akira or Grave of the Fireflies off of anyone's "Best Anime Ever," list, but the fact remains: given the premise, it's shocking that it was this good. Shocking, and kind of inspiring, really.

Rockin' out

First of all, let's talk about Sonico herself. Yes, she's a big-breasted mascot character, but for once, the character design reflects what curvy women often actually look like, rather than the standard skinny-stick-figure-with-big-boobs design. Instead of just being busty, Sonico is proportionate, meaning the animators took the risk of giving her big hips and thighs as well. Female characters in anime usually don't have much in the hip department because that look can register to some as "fat," and God-forbid a female character not be perfectly thin! So even though the series is propped up by Sonico's hotness to a large degree, she's actually a healthier representation of a "hot" woman than we usually see in anime, and I think there's something to be said for that.

Really, between Sonico and Kobeni from Engaged to the Unidentified, this was "The Season Where Big Butts Became Okay," but I think that's another article.

More importantly, the show somehow managed to present Sonico as one of those naive-and-incredibly-good-hearted female characters that anime loves to peddle, yet without making her annoying. All too often, we're told over and over again how sweet and good-natured the female lead of a show is, only for her actions to be selfish and immature; this often leads to a backlash where a lot of the viewers outright hate the character they're expected to love. In contrast, while Sonico isn't a particularly deep character, we do see her go out of her way to help people in her neighborhood regularly. Instead of being told how caring she is, we see it first-hand. Plus, she also helps out when it's called for without being an insufferable busybody, and tends to take responsibility for things. It's much easier to like her when we're being shown her good qualities rather than lectured about them.

Rockin' Grandma

However, despite making Sonico likable, the writers wisely realized that as a mascot character, there's a limit to how much she can grow and change. Instead, the show often focuses on secondary characters who can and do change, and it's satisfying to watch a show where people's lives are actually changed by their experiences -- especially on a slice-of-life-show that's typically all about maintaining the status quo. Sonico's life becomes a kind of prism through which to view more interesting people, and because we get to know those interesting people, we don't resent Sonico for her idealized nature.

What's also really nice is that the show presents a more mature, multi-generational world than we're used to seeing in most anime -- or hell, most entertainment in general. Elderly characters are often relegated to comic relief if they're seen it all, yet Sonico's grandma is a grade-A badass; she rocks the electric guitar even better than her granddaughter does. The customers at the family restaurant, despite being largely older men, respect Sonico and see her as a friend first and foremost; there's no tiresome "all the guys are just trying to get into her pants" nonsense. In fact, for a show about a model who frequently wears skimpy outfits, Sonico is rarely seen as a sex object by the other characters; it's just understood that she can be sexy, even pose as a sex object for magazine shoots, yet be a person with entirely different goals and dreams at the same time.

Some people will see screenshots of Sonico busting out of her tiny white bikini and write off the possibility that the show is as progressive as I'm making it sound, and that's okay; you don't have to find the show ground-breaking in any way to enjoy the humor, or the pleasant slice-of-life antics. Even when the show fails, as the zombie-themed episode did, the ED usually provides a silver lining -- in that case, an amazingly ridiculous music video of a chainsaw-wielding Sonico doing the Thriller dance. Even in the weakest episodes, there's always something that brings a smile to your face. The people who were making this were clearly having a blast, and it shows.

In a weird way, I see this show as being like the flip side to Wizard Barristers: the latter was a very ambitious show that failed spectacularly, whereas Sonico is a show with a super-pedestrian premise, yet the creators nailed every aspect of it. It's weird: I like to think that I'm a viewer who rewards ambition, but of the two, I know which show I'm going to miss far more.

In fact, I miss it already.

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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures


 


 


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