SoniAni: Super Sonico The Animation

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, July 5, 2014

Super Sonico started off as a fictional mascot for Japanese game publisher Nitroplus, but as with most popular mascot characters it hasn’t taken long before Sonico has become a full media franchise. In addition to video games and manga, Super Sonico now has her very own anime series called SoniAni: Super Sonico The Animation. The series is animated by White Fox (Jormungand, Steins;Gate) and is a slice of life that shows Sonico going about her day to day life as she manages studies at the local college, work as a gravure idol, and playing in a band with friends Suzu and Fuuri. It seems like an attempt to give more of a personality to the character in attempt to broaden her fan base, and while that’s not necessarily a bad idea in theory the end result doesn’t really have enough going for it to stand out.

I have to admit that based upon the way that Nitroplus designed Super Sonico I was fully expecting this series to be completely based around fan service in an attempt to pander to the otaku audience. So it came as a pleasant surprise that this wasn’t an element the studio felt the need to throw in during every single scene. Given the fact that Sonico is a gravure model and does some photo shoots in a few episodes, there still is fan service but it never felt excessive and in a weird twist there were some scenes where the series actually seemed to be chastising itself for doing so. Oh, and before I move any further and start discussing the plot, there are a couple other things worth mentioning. Sonico is never seen without her headphones, and she is introduced as Super Sonico, like that’s her name. It feels strange at first, but becomes one of those elements that are better off not questioning as you watch.

Each episode of SoniAi is fairly self-contained, and any potential conflict that arises is resolved fairly quickly. The first episode introduces us to Sonico, who has way too many cats and has to use a billion alarm clocks to wake up in the morning. She spends her time studying marine biology at the local college, modeling, volunteering at her grandmother’s restaurant, and playing in a band. There isn’t a steady plot that moves thing forward, and instead we get to watch as Sonico splits her time between all of these various activities. Compared to the other slice of life anime I’ve watched over the years, this one has a fairly small cast as when the focus isn’t entirely on Sonico there are only four other characters that are given a significant amount of screen time. Suzu and Fuuri are the closest thing this series has to direct supporting cast members, as they are both members of the band First Astronomical Velocity. Aside from these two, there are also the tween idol Ouka and agency manager Kitamura who wears a demon mask and has a hair style that it was ripped right out of Dragon Ball Z.

The intentions of this series are good, but as I watched I couldn’t help but feel that the creators were simply going down the slice of life anime checklist. There’s a beach episode, school festival, live performance from Sonico’s band, and an episode where Sonico’s positive attitude causes someone else to reconsider what they’ve been doing with their own life. When the standard slice of life elements become tired, the series goes for two parody style episodes in a row. The first parodies a zombie invasion, as the three members of First Astronomical Variety are invited by Ouka to hang out on a cruise ship for a product demonstration she is doing only to have the product turn all the users into zombie like creatures. Right after that, there’s an episode that parodies the detective mystery genre. It may have been an attempt to inject some humor and variety into the anime, but having two of them in a row frustrated me and by the time the detective mystery episode came on I found myself wishing they would just return to the normal style.

All of the aforementioned situations wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the characters were interesting and had their own quirks. After all, series like K-On! are just about the day to day school life but remain compelling because of the quirks of their cast. But Super Sonico really doesn’t have that, and the biggest offender is Sonico herself. From what I can tell, the production staff wanted to make her as likeable as possible but in the process went a little overboard. She’s showcased as a shy girl that has the ability to transition over to an outgoing personality when she becomes passionate about something, and also tends to say yes to everything she is asked without any protest. The problem with this is that it felt to me like Sonico was just a giant mish mash of every female character from the slice of life genre, and she never really had an identity of her own that made me connect with her. This is also true of the supporting cast, as they’re all defined by their looks more so than personalities. Fuuri’s probably my favorite out of the supporting characters, and really all we know about her by the end of the series is that she likes to eat a lot and is good at the drums. Without truly memorable characters, SoniAni isn’t able to provide something truly memorable and I’ve already forgotten the specifics of the majority of the episodes only a week or so after finishing it.

White Fox has produced some anime that had eye catching visuals, as I found there were moments in both Jormungand and The Devil is a Part-Timer! that really pulled me in to what was happening. SoniAi is much less focused on action compared to those two, but the studio has still been able to create a visually appealing series overall. Sonico spends much of her time in the city but does venture out to the countryside during one of the episodes, and there were some attractive locales for the viewer to take in. Of course the emphasis remains on the characters and showing off Sonico in all of her different outfits and in this regard the animation studio was able to maintain a consistent style. While there were plenty of scenes that were pleasant to look at and I didn’t notice any noticeable dips in animation or over-reliance on still moments, there just wasn’t a whole lot that I think would make your jaw drop as you watched. There’s nothing wrong with consistency, but compared to the other series that White Fox has served as the animation lead on there isn’t a lot here that truly shows off their abilities.

Super Sonico’s first appearance as Nitroplus’ mascot was at a musical festival in 2006 that the publisher sponsored, so it makes sense that one of the best elements of SoniAni is the music. First Astronomical Velocity isn’t just an in-universe band, as the voice actresses for Sonico, Suzu, and Fuuri all provide vocals on some of the songs with Sonico’s actress taking the lead. Every episode has a different ending song and uses different visuals, serving as a music video ending of sorts. This is an aspect I really liked, as the songs are all fairly catchy (particularly the main opening track “Beat Goes On”) and do have some staying power. Voice acting is decent, as each of the actors and actresses fits their character quite well but due to the fairly one-dimensional nature of the supporting cast there isn’t really much room for truly standout performances. I do think that there is something to be said for matching a character’s look with a particular voice actress though, so in this regards the production team has done a fine job.

I was pleasantly surprised that SoniAni wasn’t quite as excessive and pandering with the fan service as I was expecting, though it does still employ a decent amount of it. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly average slice of life show that tries its best to create a personality for the Super Sonico character and present some memorable and silly scenarios but doesn’t quite get there. I’m sure that this anime will still find an audience, as anything with an attractive lead that has elements of slice of life and music usually does, but this is the type of series that I imagine people will have trouble remembering specific details about in the weeks after they’ve watched it.

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