Like the series’ namesake, the recurring characters don’t develop. Her fellow band members, leader and bassist Suzu Fujimi and snack-obsessed drummer Fuuri Watanuki, both featured in Nitro+’s visual novel Axanael, and it’s much of the same here. Her affectionate manager Kitamura, who sports a kabuki mask and sometimes a sword, shows nothing but fatherly concern for Sonico, but the air of ambiguity prevents any real empathy. It’s only minor characters that prove dynamic and relatable. In Session 5, New World, Sayaka Kinomoto, a disillusioned journo with shattered dreams and a half-finished novel, reluctantly covers Sonico for a magazine spread. After spending the day with her, Sayaka is soon inspired, her whole dour outlook changing. She even finishes her novel!
Session 6, Cruising of the Dead, throws a demented spanner in the works when zombies show up at the halfway point. The tonal shift after the feel-good glitz and jangly J-Pop was whiplash-inducing, as the band try and survive against a hungry horde. Episode 7, Star Rain, is the show’s highpoint, where you get an insight into how good a series it could have been if a few of the odder ideas were tossed out and the rest was tightened up. It put the comedy on the back burner and saw Sonico as Forest Gump, travelling alone and encountering and affecting a variety of disparate people. It’s the episode which allowed the luscious animation to really indulge itself in the delicate glass-blowing sequence or the mesmerising star scape.
The series pulls in too many directions for it to be taken as one complete package, its tonal detours and narrative shifts only work against it. The creative team, headed up by Black Lagoon handyman Kenichi Kawamura, never seemed to fully understand what they wanted to do: Session 9 is a ‘murder’ mystery, while 10 is all about Sonico’s cats. Super Sonico The Animation is a bittersweet slice of life, that’s oddly affectionate and bursting with untapped possibility. Another series might just set the record straight.
Special Features: Opening and closing animation / Outtakes / Blooper reel / Radio spots / Photo shoots / Trailers
INFO: SONIANI: SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: KENICHI KAWAMURA / SCREENPLAY: YOUSUKE KURODA / STARRING: AYANO YAMAMOTO, MAMI OZAKI, MAI GOTOU, RYOUTA TAKEUCHI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW