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The Media Man Reviews: Sonic Prime Season 1

Updated: Feb 5, 2023


I'm late to the party, I know. Sue me, I was busy over Christmas and only wanted to write Christmas related posts. =P


Anyway, 2022 was a busy year for Sonic the Hedgehog. And I mean BUSY! In that year alone, we got a sequel to the live-action movie, a brand new game AND a brand new cartoon all at once! And then there's the IDW comics that are still going on top of that! 2022 may as well have been called "Year of the Sonic!" XD


Much like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Prime was released to critical acclaim from both fans and critics a like and has become one of Netflix's latest hits. Like seriously, it's stupidly popular right now and this year's going to bring us a second season in the near future. The show drew much attention and interest due to its premise of multiverse travel and the fact it was a brand new Sonic cartoon. We haven't had one since Sonic Boom thankfully ended back in 2017 so the fact Netflix just popped out this new one for us was quite intriguing.


So is Sonic Prime a prime example of a great Sonic cartoon? Is it a prime example of how to fail at making a Sonic cartoon? Let's jump through the Shatterverse and find out...


Section 1: The Story


I have a feeling somebody in the writing staff is a big fan of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse because the whole premise is basically centred around Sonic the Hedgehog travelling through different universes and meeting different versions of his friends and Dr. Eggman along the way. They may as well call this show "Sonic the Hedgehog: Into the Sonic-Verse". XD


However, the premise ends up being the show's biggest weakness. You see, this premise sounds great...for a season long arc. This should NOT be the premise of an entire show, otherwise it creates problems that effect how this show can be enjoyed. You see, we're just thrust into this whole conflict with Sonic and friends fighting Dr. Eggman over the Paradox Prism with BARELY any context behind who these characters are and the world they inhabit. Yes, I understand that Sonic fans aren't going to have any trouble getting into this but imagine if you're a newcomer who's never heard of Sonic before? Going into this show, you'd be totally lost because this show doesn't even try to reintroduce Sonic and friends to a new audience! This show would've benefitted from being a standard Sonic cartoon that has a few seasons to set up its status quo, do some world-building and let us get to know these new takes on the characters and then for a future season, do this as a season long arc. Instead, they do it immediately which really feels like they're rushing way too quickly into what should be a big storyline any other show would do later down the line. Spider-Man: The Animated Series from the 90's understood this especially.


But this isn't the only time the show suffers from bad pacing. The show itself is just constant, and I mean CONSTANT fight scenes from one episode to the next with barely any time to slow down and catch our breath. It's like the show's worried the kids that are watching will get bored if there's not an action scene so it keeps throwing them in one after the other. It ends up feeling less like this show has a story to tell and more like it's setting up stages for action scenes to take place in. It's kinda like how Monty Oum would write RWBY in its heyday, except that show did a better job of having an actual story woven into the action scenes and also knew when to slow down and take a break from the fighting. As a result, the constant action scenes start to get boring after a while and you just want the series to do something else for a while and give it a rest. The best (or rather worst) way to sum this up is that the pacing feels like racing through a stage in a Sonic game: its fast, you're zooming through the world you're in and beating up enemies. That's fine for a game but NOT for a show.


This also brings me to another issue I have with the show: the multiverse aspect itself. It just feels like a lazy gimmick to set up action scenes and they don't do anything creative with it. It's just Sonic in the most generic settings you can think of. Oh he's in an apocalyptic world where Eggman has taken over! Oh he's in a jungle world! Oh he's in a pirate world! ANYONE can put Sonic in these settings and I guarantee that some fanfic writers out there would likely be more creative than this show was. While the world of New Yoke City is pretty cool and the pirate world was a lot of fun, the jungle world felt like a colossal waste of two episodes and because of the bad pacing, we barely get any time to know these worlds and any world-building around them is surface level at best. This is why this should've been a season long arc and not a premise for an eight episode series because it doesn't give us time to properly explore these concepts and flesh out these worlds. Again, they just feel like set pieces for fight scenes to happen in. And it's not like Sonic the Hedgehog can't do world-building because as detailed in my Sonic Frontiers review last week, that game did it fantastically! So this show has no excuse.


The tone of this show is also way too silly for the kind of premise it has. We're dealing with the possibility of a shattered universe and one of the settings is a bad future where Dr. Eggman has taken over, yet it feels like the show doesn't want to take itself too seriously and throws in a bunch of dumb concepts and a lot of bad jokes that are never funny. Like who thought it was that funny we had five versions of Dr. Eggman where one's a baby, one's an old man and one's the most stereotypical depiction of gamers ever depicted in a cartoon? I'm seriously asking because I didn't laugh ONCE at those guys. It says a lot when the funniest joke in the series is when the emotionless cyborg Amy Rose counterpart says "I wish I were programmed to laugh".


Also, this show is a prime (pun intended) example of wasted potential. Why is that? Because the show has multiverse travel in it...and yet there's no Silver the Hedgehog in sight. Why the hell is he not here? I was talking with a friend about this show and we both agreed that instead of Shadow being the antagonistic force against Sonic in this show, it should've been Silver as Silver would be more likely to beat up Sonic without explaining himself first and with Silver being a time traveller, he'd fit right into this show. And also you got a pirate themed world...yet no Blaze the Cat counterpart anywhere? That too feels like wasted potential. Blaze should totally be in a pirate-themed world and yet the show just sticks to counterparts of Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rouge and Big for some reason. Cause yeah, why have awesome characters like Silver or Blaze in this show when we can have Big the Cat, am I right?


But the biggest wasted potential is the multiverse aspect itself. You see, the company that makes this show, Wild Brain, actually holds the rights for the first three Sonic cartoons, namely The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic SatAM and Sonic Underground. You'd think with this being a multiverse hopping story and this in mind, they'd visit those universes...yet they don't and instead just give us these generic as hell settings. Like why would you do that to yourself? You could've given us this Spider-Man No Way Home style nostalgia trip and give fans conclusions to these shows they've been waiting decades for, ESPECIALLY Sonic SatAM with how that was cut short! You have all this potential right at your door step and do nothing with it. Why? I'm pretty sure SEGA didn't mandate this or something so why not bring in those shows? While some could argue it'd alienate non-Sonic fans and leave them lost, I'd argue this show ALREADY does that with how it doesn't even try to make this show accessible to non-Sonic fans so I don't think that's an issue.


And as many have pointed out, this show is supposedly "canon" to the video-games, yet it doesn't feel like it's set in the game universe and doesn't fit in that continuity. For example, Sonic doesn't live in Green Hill, Rouge the Bat isn't a regular friend of the team's and feels less like the Anti-Hero she usually is and Sonic's personality doesn't line up with what we saw recently with Sonic Frontiers so I don't see how the show's in the same universe as the games. Why not just make this another universe instead of trying to tie it into the games like so?


So yeah, I'm slamming this show quite hard. Does that mean I think it's utterly irredeemable trash with no good qualities in it? Of course not! That's way too harsh of me to say! =P No, the show DOES have good things about it. It's just you've got to dig through all the bad stuff to get to it. First of all, whenever the show DOES slow down and take a breather, it gets more interesting to watch such as when we get Nine and Knuckles the Dread's backstories or any flashbacks to moments in Sonic's life. Those flashbacks at least flesh out Sonic's world a little and also add more to the theme of friendship that the show is built around. While friendship is a common theme in most kid's cartoons, it's done well here and can lead to some heart-warming moments from time to time. This show does at least understand that aspect of Sonic the Hedgehog and how much his friends mean to him, which makes it easy to root for him as he goes on this crazy multiverse hopping adventure. Also the show has some surprisingly strong writing around the characters (or at least some of them) but we'll get to that later.


And while the show does have too many action scenes, I do give it credit that it at least handles them well and it can easily believe why people view them as a highlight of the show because they can be pretty cool to watch thanks to some neat choreography and great animation bringing them to life (more on that in the animation section). And while not every joke lands, we do get some funny lines here and there and as I said earlier, the pirate world manages to be a lot of fun, especially with Knuckles the Dread being as lively and full of fun as he can be. And finally, the show has a pretty effective cliffhanger that can make one keen to see what happens next. Personally, I feel the season just abruptly stops but I do see how it can work as a cliffhanger to grab people's attention for the next series.


So yeah, Sonic Prime does have its good moments but the show overall buckles under its own weight with poor pacing, weak world-building, an overly goofy tone and a premise that doesn't work as a premise for an entire series. I only wish I wasn't saying all this as I really wanted to like this show but with writing like this, I just couldn't get into it...


Section 2: The Characters


The Sonic cast are here again and yet it's more their multiverse counterparts we see here. It's also with the characters where some of the show's best writing comes out.


We have our main hedgehog of course, Sonic (voiced by Deven Mack). While many may question how this Sonic and Game Sonic are the same character, I don't have much to complain about with Sonic's portrayal here. He's pretty in-character for the most part as the overly cocky, impulsive and fun-loving hedgehog we know him as but the show especially remembers one important aspect of Sonic's character here: his attachment to his friends. He very clearly values their friendship and it's what leads him to trying to bring out the best in everyone in the alternate worlds he visits. It's especially noticeable in Episode 3 that when Sonic notices he's the cause of all the crazy stuff that's happening and that New Yoke City is basically his fault, he gets a little less cocky and tries relying on his more compassionate side to solve conflicts. While the story has issues, I'd say Sonic's pretty well-handled here. I don't have any real issues with him.


We have other familiar faces in the show too such as Tails (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Knuckles (voiced by Adam Nurada), Amy Rose (voiced by Shannon Chan-Kent), Rouge the Bat (voiced by Kazumi Evans), Shadow (voiced by Ian Hanlin), Big (also voiced by Ian Hanlin) and Dr. Eggman (voiced by Brian Drummond who ironically enough was the voice of Knuckles in Sonic Underground so funny he's now playing Eggman). From what little we see of them, they're pretty true to their usual selves sans Rouge who feels more hero than anti-hero and Shadow who is just this overly angry thing that wants to beat up Sonic because of a vague threat that Sonic might be responsible for. I do hate how SEGA are so set on portraying Shadow this way and honestly, it feels like he's just here for fan-service. As I pointed out, Silver should've been in his place instead as his character makes more sense for the kind of role Shadow's currently in.


But while we don't see many of the Prime counterparts, we do see much of their alternate selves. I'll go over the important ones as we'll be here too long if I try to recap everybody.


In New Yoke City, we have the Chaos Council consisting of Mr. Dr. Eggman, Dr. Done It (both voiced by Brian Drummon), Dr. Deep, Dr. Don't and Dr. Babble (all voiced by Vincent Tong). These guys SHOULD be cool villains but instead, they feel more like jokes thanks to their lame designs and confusing concepts that feel more like gags than anything. Again, was it REALLY that funny we had a version of Eggman who's a baby? Or a version of Eggman that's this stereotypical millennial who's glued to his video games? But when you think about them, there is some kind of sense to their designs. A friend of mine pointed out that when you think about it, these five Eggmen all represent parts of the main Dr. Eggman's personality. I think they should've been cooler and more threatening instead of silly, but it is pretty clever of them to do that in hindsight.


Also in New Yoke City we get Nine (also voiced by Ashleigh Ball) who is that universe's Tails. He is by far the best character to come out of this show, bar none, and it's when he's onscreen when the show gets interesting. Nine is what happens if Tails never met Sonic. The constant bullying he suffered thanks to his twin tails weighs heavily on him psychologically to the point he invented his robotic tails to fight off his bullies and now he just wants to be left alone with nothing to do with anyone. Once he gets the Paradox Prism shard, he finds a whole new world that's empty, seeing it was a way to start anew and he feels he owes his world nothing because of all the misery it brought him. It's no wonder he becomes so attached to Sonic as Sonic was the only real friend he ever had and he wants to share this empty world with him. I'm curious if the show has anything else in store for him in later seasons...


And we also have the second best character in the show, Rusty Rose (also voiced by Shannon Chan-Kent). She's a cyborg version of Amy Rose and the right-hand woman of the Chaos Council. Unlike them where they feel more like lame jokes than actual villains, Rusty Rose is a genuine threat who proves to be Metal Sonic levels of tough to fight and is a formidable foe anytime she's on screen. I'm curious to learn more about her, namely what led to her becoming like this and if it'll be possible to save her in the end. And as mentioned before, she gets the funniest line in the entire show. How does the emotionless cyborg get a funny line I wonder? XD


For Boscage Maze, the jungle world, we have the scavengers who consist of Mangey, Prim, Hangry, and Gnarly, all versions of Tails, Rouge, Big and Knuckles respectively. They're fighting for survival as an alternate version of Amy named Thorn (also voiced by Shannon Chan-Kent) is keeping them out of the jungle to try and protect it. Thorn is the worst character in the show due to being this emotionally fragile psychopath who just randomly snapped one day and became this angry tree-hugger just because. The fact it takes a random bit of sunlight shining down on a palm tree to make her realize the error of her ways is pretty anti-climactic as well. Like really? It took her till NOW to realize that? The conflict of the jungle two-parter was so easily solvable that one has to wonder why they stretched it into a two-parter and wasted everyone's time like so.


And then there's Nowhere, the pirate world, where we have Knuckles the Dread (voiced by Vincent Tong) and his crew Batten, Sails, Black Rose, and Catfish (Rouge, Tails, Amy and Big respectively). Knuckles the Dread is a hoot thanks to his lively personality and boisterous sense of fun but we also see he's troubled and has become more cowardly thanks to a treasure hunt that left him shipwrecked, alone and abandoned by his original crew. Sadly, it seems he learned nothing from his past experiences and is just treasure obsessed with no care for his crew but still, he's entertaining. Also he has me kinda wanting to try sea dogs, which some culinary minded fans of the show actually made a reality. No really.


Interestingly enough, each world Sonic visits has him primarily interacting with a particular counterpart. New Yoke City focuses on Nine (the Tails counterpart), Boscage Maze focuses on Thorn (the Amy counterpart) and Nowhere focuses on Knuckles the Dread (the Knuckles counterpart) and his interactions with those characters and read as a character study on Sonic and his relationships with these characters. Through Nine, Sonic sees how important he is to Tails, through Thorn Sonic sees how important Amy's values on friendship are not just to him but everyone else and through Dread, Sonic may have gained newfound respect for Knuckles and how he's not one to give-up so easily. While the story may have issues, the character writing somehow manages to remain one of the show's most interesting aspects. Of course, it would've been more interesting if Sonic was interacting with counterparts from other Sonic cartoons but hey, I'll take the victories while I've got them.


Oh and the new voice cast are surprisingly good here too with Deven, Ashleigh and Shannon being my favourites of the new voices. They really sound like Sonic, Tails and Amy respectively while making the roles their own and just nail their personalities, as well as the personalities of the alternate counterparts too. If these actors became the new voices of the Sonic crew in future games, I wouldn't mind honestly.


Sonic is done well and for the most part, the other counterparts we meet bring out his best traits and seeing him bounce off of these alternate versions of his friends proves to be surprisingly interesting in spite of the show's writing issues. Hopefully future seasons will keep this up, especially as there's five worlds we'll see overall and we've only seen three so far so that leaves two more to explore in future seasons...


Section 3: The Animation


Even now, I'm still blown away by how damn good the animation is. Even for a Netflix exclusive series, it looks BEAUTIFUL!


This truly looks like a Sonic game brought to life in the best possible way. The series is CGI animated like Sonic Boom, yet the show boasts considerably better animation than even that show. I'll start off with the characters. The character designs are true to the games with some subtle changes here and there be it the fur textures on the Mobians or Eggman's face looking slightly different compared to the games and having some subtle differences to his outfit. Some like Amy and Rouge have more noticeable differences to them that honestly feel like improvements over before and should be their definitive designs from here on out such as Amy's dress covering her back and no longer designed in a way that'll flash her panties if she so much as bends over or Rouge wearing a full bodysuit that's suitable for her Catwoman-esque personality from the games (despite lacking that in this show). Everybody just looks great here and I love how they brought these characters to life in this new version of the show. All the alternate counterparts look great too and fit the worlds they're in perfectly from the outfits the rebels wear, the design of the Eggman robots and the cyborg Rusty Rose in New Yoke City, the tribal costumes for the jungle universe and especially the pirate uniforms for the pirate universe. I especially love Knuckles, Batten and Black Rose's uniforms in that universe, they look so good and just so very pirate like. The Chaos Council sadly are the weakest in terms of character designs and only further strengthen my point that they feel like excuses for jokes than actual villains.


And then you have the character animation. Everybody is animated with so much life in them and they display SO much character with a mere gesture, an expression on their face or slight movement of their bodies. The way the characters move fits their personalities whether it's the cocky, energetic Sonic, the withdrawn, bitter Nine, the wild and angry Thorn, the robotic movements of Rusty Rose or the boisterous and jovial Knuckles the Dread. The animators were clearly enjoying animating these characters because there's so much life in them and so much fluidity in their movements that they feel like actual living beings and not just computer generated characters. I dunno how big the budget is in a Netflix exclusive animated series usually but I imagine it's not a lot and yet they managed to make the most of what they had with these dynamic character interactions.


This especially shows when we get to the action scenes. There's A LOT of them and while I think the story suffers from too much action scenes, they at least animate them well and make them the highlight of the show for many fans. There's some impressive choreography on display here and the fast-paced, fluid animation allows for some slick action that never drags and drags you along for the ride. At times, it can feel almost like you're playing a Sonic game given the fast-paced action and robot battles Sonic and friends end up in. The show especially REALLY nails the speed of a Sonic game and truly makes it feel like you're going fast as you watch Sonic and friends fight for their lives. It's a lot better than Sonic Boom's efforts to animate the blue blur when the best they could manage was a brisk jog while here, Sonic looks like he's actually running fast. The only problem is that because there's so much action in this show, the action scenes just start to blend in together and it just ends up becoming white noise in the end. It's why I tend to enjoy the show more when there's NOT an action scene because it feels like a relief when we get a break for once!


Speaking of the action, I said the multiverse thing feels like a cheap gimmick used as an excuse to stage fight scenes. The animation only proves this theory because the worlds we visit are just so dull and uninteresting. OK, New Yoke City is pretty cool looking as this Eggman-conquered dystopia but again, we've seen this kind of setting in plenty other bad future stories like Flashpoint or TMNT 2003's Same As It Never Was episode. Hell, even Sonic Forces kinda gave us this setting already so it's not all that interesting anymore! Boscage Maze and Nowhere are no better either with Boscage Maze just looking like an overgrown jungle and Nowhere just being nothing but water. Come on guys, a pirate setting is no excuse to have such a lazy background. Even Zak Storm gave us something to look at and showed the Bermuda Triangle isn't just water. They could've really gone all out and given us some creative new worlds to see but instead, they put the bare minimum into it and just put all their effort into the action scenes.


Also, despite the animation looking really good, it does show that this show doesn't have the largest budget out there. The lighting doesn't look 100% natural at times and some effects like water don't look all that convincing. It says a lot when Sonic Frontiers has better lighting effects and more convincing water despite being a video-game and not a TV series. I'm not saying it looks terrible. The show is still very pretty to look at and is very colourful and bright at times. It's just these little issues make the show look slightly dated, like it came out a few years late or something.


The animation is easily the best thing about the show and the primary reason to watch it despite the show's weak story-telling. They make the show look so good and it's nice to see a Sonic cartoon with such lovely visuals that are full of speed, character, personality and detail. Hopefully in future seasons, they can be more creative with the animation and show us something truly incredible...


Overall


Sonic Prime is the prime example (pun intended again) of a cartoon that has good things about it but is let down by the bad things. The story is weak, the pacing is atrocious, the multiverse gimmick feels like an excuse to set up fight scenes, there's far too much action in it, and the humour is poor. The animation is the best part by a country mile but pretty visuals don't make a good show. The character writing is surprisingly good though, but that still has issues too. I went into Sonic Prime thinking it was going to be something awesome but sadly, it didn't work out for me and I'm not holding out much hopes for it getting any better in the future. I'll give it another chance with Season 2 so who knows, maybe it'll improve and maybe I'll become a fan like everyone else. I sure would hate to give another bad review for Sonic the Hedgehog again...


And that's all I've got for my review on Sonic Prime. I hope you enjoyed and I invite you all to share your thoughts on the series down below. Did you like it? Did you not like it? I'm all ears. Next week, I'll be writing an essay all about my favourite fighting robot from the cult-favourite UK series Robot Wars. See you then everyone!


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Guest
Jan 27, 2023

The multiverse concepts with these universes could've worked better if they really explored how certain things worked. if this is a universe where Eggman won, you have to ask what became of Gerald in this universe? did he survive?


The characters are voiced well, but in terms of writing, while I think Rouge was far from the best, I'm glad we've got her again after her absence.


Though I think we gotta take a drinking game.


What universes will we go to next? A cowboy one? A superhero one? I bet those two are the ones we'll get given the movies of superheroes, and a cowboy one is about right. But why not a horror themed one? a noir one?…


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Guest
Jan 27, 2023

I see the issues you have with this show, and I respect that.


I take it Scurvy understands your issues too.

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