By Marigold K.
Sonic Boom is the latest cartoon created for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Produced by "OuiDo!" Productions and Sega of America, it's a comedy/action-adventure TV series a part of the latest "branch" of the Sonic franchise (alongside the Classic and Modern branches) that's set to get a new generation of children hyped and excited to get into Sonic the Hedgehog.
Quite a lot of fuss has been made over what Sonic Boom is supposed to be, where it fits in with the rest of the franchise. Some have even gone as far as to theorize that this Boom-iverse takes place in the altered timeline that was created after Sonic Generations!... Anyway, I think they're asking a very valid question, though I do feel that they're going about answering it the wrong way.
Sonic the Hedgehog, the franchise, is twenty-five years-old this year. And in those twenty-five years a lot happened - Sequels, side-quels on CD/32-bit add-ons, 3D iterations solidifying a new identity for the characters, and, through all of that, cartoons. Sonic is a very special franchise in that the media surrounding it, created for it... oftentimes ends up doing more to change it than vice-versa - so when you're looking at a cartoon show you gotta take it seriously 'cause this stuff is a big deal for Sonic the Hedgehog, and that's what I'm aiming to do here by taking a look at the writing, the characters, and its relationship with the Sonic franchise as a whole.
The last Sonic cartoon we had before this was an anime titled Sonic X--and please don't get confused, Mega Man fans, it doesn't star an android version of the original Sonic a century after the original canon... although that would be pretty cool, admittedly. No, it was, in fact, perhaps the most true to the source material (of the time) out of every Sonic cartoon, even going so far as to adapt some of the plots from the games themselves. Really good show, it was my very first exposure to Sonic.
Now, Sonic Boom, on the flip-side, has taken a page out of DiC's book and took more than a few liberties with the Sonic canon. The characters have new looks (again, not new for anyone who remembers the older cartoons), more or less new characterizations loosely-based off of the source material, and takes place in an entirely new location unknown in both the original game world, and, humorously enough, to the show itself--as is noted by the characters' admittance that the town/island they reside in doesn't have a name for itself.
This also happens to be more comedy-centric than maybe any other Sonic cartoon series since Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog - you could even perhaps say that Sonic Boom is as close to a modern incarnation of AoStH as we'll ever get... I mean, I'm not exactly psyched to be getting this instead of another AoStH, but you could still say it.
It's no secret that the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has had issues with portraying women in a way that isn't entirely misogynist. The very first idea for a woman character came about with human girlfriend of Sonic, Madonna. She was to be the damsel-in-distress for the very first game - she was cut, and instead we got Amy Rose in Sonic the Hedgehog CD later. She wasn't his girlfriend, this time around--no, she was his fangirl. Yes, the Sonic franchise's landmark female character is one who spends most of her existence fawning over Sonic instead of being her own person with her own goals. This was subject to change later on, leading to a remarkable character arc in Sonic Adventure, where she grows out of her crush and becomes independent of Sonic and it's legitimately beautiful.
Now, with Sonic Boom... I feel like they were trying to do a good thing with Amy? See, after Sonic Adventure her character sort of fluctuated from game to game (sometimes she was written well, other times it was as if Sonic Adventure never happened), and a spin-off/alternate-universe would be the perfect place to start writing her consistently well!... In reality, Amy Rose's character was handled disappointingly throughout most of the series so far. She's been written as being ill-tempered, nagging, highly-sensitive, and worst of all - a girl. In this cast, the men outnumber the women, and all the fun that's ever had more often than not does involve bro-y activities (like launching each other into trees, head-first) and does not involve any acknowledgment or embrace of any sort of femininity. And when most of a certain pink lady-hedgehog's character involves the conventionally-feminine, that doesn't leave much room for positive treatment of that character. Yes, there was an episode where Sticks and Amy proved to be better at survival in nature than Sonic and Knuckles, yes, there was an episode where Eggman showed interest in a feminine-coded toy-line, no, neither of these two episodes make a difference (the former was merely a reinforcement of conventional gender dynamics, the latter was a means to make Eggman appear undesirable for his decidedly-'unmanly' interests).
Nevertheless, this is indeed a comedy show, so is it funny? The answer is yes, very much so... although that may depend on your tolerance for Macfarlane-esque cut-away gags, snark, and characters generally being rude or inconsiderate towards one another. I, for all my "womanly frailties" like sensitivity, managed to enjoy most of the show's humor, but, unlike AoStH, this show was a lot less care-free and happy - sometimes, it was upset, and cynical. And I'm not saying that TV shows are inherently not allowed to be that way, it's just... well, they sure picked a heck of a time to do it.
This new wave of 2010s cartoons that are idealistic, optimistic, energized, happy, and sensitive have captured the hearts of many (even those 'above' the age-range!), and, to be perfectly honest, this was the perfect time for Sega to do a revival of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog! With all the earnest, progressive (they had a Man of Color voice Sonic and a gay man voice Dr. Robotnik for crying out loud!), socially-conscious ideals held by it. Instead we got a show with a mostly-white cast, a largely-cynical view of the world, and more often than not feels like it was written by some frustrated old grump, which is not what I should associate with Sonic - an icon for youth. But it was not meant to be, it seems, so, judging it as it is, the show is okay at what it does. A bit formulaic, could use some more writers (preferably more women, and people of color, and LGBT+ people), but otherwise pretty solid.
Now, this being the Sonic fandom, even with the show's problems it's already got people trying to find some way to twist it into yet another failure of Sega's in trying to re-energize the Sonic brand. They say it's a failure at everything it does--including its character design changes, do not get an average Sonic fan started on Boom-iverse Sonic's blue arms--and I say... it's really not?
For all its issues with out-of-touch writers, portrayal of women, and so on, the show is at the very least a marketing success (which is just called a 'success' for the Sonic franchise). I don't know a single person who hasn't at least heard of Sonic Boom, I've already gone over the newest toys set to release for the show in the last edition of Sonic Fridays. Really, the only way it can be framed as any sort of failure is that it maybe failed to satisfy some fans of the Sonic fandom, and if we're gonna use that as a measure of whether a new piece of media for Sonic failed or not then we're gonna be lumping a large part of the recent output of Sonic games... okay, we're already doing that, I guess. "It's not a very good or even accurate measure of success" is my point.
For me, personally, I feel more like Sonic Boom was a bit of a mis-fire. After all these years, Sonic the franchise still has issues with portraying women - an easy fix for that would be hiring more women. The issue of it being a little too cynical and snarky for my tastes... well, that's really just me. It is serviceable at being Family Guy for kids/Sonic fans, for what that's worth. Even so, it was a success at making people outside of the Sonic fandom clique think about Sonic again, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.
Since the season finale, we've heard word of a second season being in development. After having said everything I've said here, I still have hope for the series. I do genuinely hope they fix the issues holding the series back, and, in any case, I'm gonna be keeping up with the show. Would I recommend others do so as well? Maybe - it depends. I certainly won't begrudge anyone if they give up on it. For me, Sonic's been a major part of my life since I first watched Sonic X and played Sonic Heroes (one of which hasn't held up for me very well, you're free to guess which one I'm referring to), and I'm not about to give up on him and the show yet - he's just getting warmed up!
And that's the third edition of Sonic Fridays! Thank you for reading, I hope you had a good time doing so, and feel free to leave a comment below saying what you thought of the article, the show itself, and whether you'll keep watching it as well, or start watching it, maybe. Either way, I wish you all a great day and a better tomorrow!