I think to have a proper mindset for the Sonic Boom cartoon, you have to first remember that this series is a spinoff FEATURING characters from the Sonic franchise, but not necessarily in the same tone as the regular video game series itself. Unlike all the other Sonic cartoons, it’s much less about action and adventure than it is more of a domestic situation comedy similar to the recent Looney Tunes show. There are many differences between this Sonic and the one we’re used to, but does the humor of the show pull it above it’s less adventurous storylines? Let’s a take a deep look into Sonic Boom and see what’s better about the new take on these characters and what simply doesn’t work.
Sonic Boom takes place mostly near a village in a place called Bygone Island. Well, it’s never called that in the show, but rather in the Rise of Lyric video game. Dr. Eggman lives high up in an evil layer atop of a volcano while Sonic and his friends live in different huts near the beach. The only exceptions are Sticks who lives in a burrow and Knuckles who sleeps out among the stars and has no home of his own. Most of Sonic and pals daily activities include hanging out together, playing volleyball, eating at the local Meh Burgers and mostly defending themselves and the island from Dr. Eggman’s daily attacks.
The villagers themselves all have their own personalities and quirks. Fastideous Beaver is a nerdy grammar Nazi who starts most of his sentences with “actually”, Soar the Eagle is a self-help guru/TV reporter, Comedy Chimp is a late night talk show host/poor comedian and Dave the intern is a dorky, teenage beaver with braces who works at the Meh Burger and longs to become an evil mastermind. Having a diverse cast of characters like this gives the show a bit of a “Simpsons” feel as you get to know every bit player.
This is partially due to the nature of the animated series being CG. Unlike traditional 2-D animation which is hand drawn, every character and environment in CG has to be hand made in a computer from scratch. Errr…well, whatever “from scratch” means in CG anyway. Ask any amateur CG model maker and they’ll tell you how hard it is just to make just one model. Now, you have to make dozens of characters and environments for a fairly small budget CG show which is why characters like Soar and Fastideous are re-used in different ways and may have multiple jobs. This also explains why certain backgrounds have been re-used over and over again. The canyon in the first episode has been a site of a crashed meteor in “The meteor” and even had lava added to it to become a volcano. Because of this, the show feels very limited in scope. We’ve been to the beach in front of Amy’s house dozens of times and boy, do Sonic and the gang love their volleyball and visiting Meh Burger.
Despite this, the island does have several different locals that give off a different feel of atmosphere depending on the location. From the jungle area and beach where Sonic and friends live in huts (Gilligans Island style), to dessert canyons to Eggman’s high tech layer atop an active volcano. It helps give the show a sense of variety while still using many of the same locals.
This has been the cause of much controversy as the characters have gone through quite a few changes when coming to this show. I’ve accepted it for the most part as it’s a different cannon from the games entirely and tends to have a different feel. Let’s look at the individual characters and weather their changes improve or hinder the character shall we? Please note, I’m not gonna talk about the cosmetic changes to the characters as that horse has been beaten to death.
Sonic’s still the freedom loving dude with a ‘tude, but his ‘tude has been neutered a bit compared to other versions. Much like Bugs Bunny in the new Looney Tunes show, he’s become a straight man. His attitude and behavior tends to be more reactionary than brought on by something he’s done himself. Despite his ego being a main part of his character in the games, here even Amy and Knuckles show more attitude and ego than Sonic does. He’s still got his humorous moments, but they are mostly reactionary as well.
Tails is the character with the least changes. His “little bro” relationship with Sonic is as strong as ever (especially going by the first episode alone). He does have a little bit more of a “nerd” aspect to him as his inventions tend to put him on the bad side of his friends (only to fix said invention and save the day as many Tails-centric episodes seem to go).
By far, Amy has had the biggest improvements over her game counterpart. Not only has Cindy Robinson drastically improved her performance of Amy over the “Minnie Mouse” version in the games, but gone is her boy-chasing, lovesick side. Replaced now with just a secret crush on the blue blur (which he may have as well). She’s a much more stronger and independent character. She’s still a girly girl, but in a much more calm and humorous way. when she’s not playing therapist to Eggman and Sonic, she’s knitting sweaters for baby penguins or painting a portrait of herself painting a portrait. Easily the most improved character overall. She no longer smothers Sonic while trying to get his affection, but instead treats him equally the same as her other friends. This leads to situations where she and Sonic can have a lunch together with zero romantic implications.
Knuckles is…well…I really like this Knuckles, but he’s so drastically different from his game character that I can only accept him as Knuckles idiot cousin Olaf who thinks he’s Knuckles and has somehow fooled others into thinking the same. He’s larger, less grumpy and FAR dumber than the Lego shoe wearing original, but DANG if Knuckles idiot cousin Olaf isn’t the funniest character on the show! He’s rarely a center character and is usually just in the background, but every time he comes on I smile because I KNOW something funny is gonna come out of his stupid mouth. Also, he has a far better relationship with Sonic than in the games. Instead of being a bitter, but friendly rival, his rivalry only comes from the games he and Sonic play together. Otherwise, they act as best friends and constantly hang out together.
Then there’s Sticks the fifth wheel. I mean, Jungle Badger. She has her funny moments for sure, but I often wonder why she’s even here? What does she really provide to Sonic’s circle of friends. To Sonic, Tails is his best friend/little bro, Knuckles is his other best friend/Rival/Big bro and Amy is a longtime friend/possible love interest. to Sonic, Sticks is just “Amy’s friend” and that’s it. She rarely does anything to fit in with the others and tends to get on Sonic’s nerves more than help. If anything, she’s pushes herself away often as she’s suspect of everyone including her own friends at times. She’s like a new character that’s added in a long running situation comedy when they’re running out of ideas. The one aspect I like do about her is her opposite approach to situations with Amy. Amy might try to solve a situation with a diplomatic approach while Sticks would solve it with direct violence. With proper writing, she can be a great character, but for now, she needs a fair amount of work. It would be nice if we got to know her better through an introduction/origin episode, but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. As for now, she has her moments, but is my least favorite of the group.
Eggman’s lackey’s Orbot and Cubot have not changed too much from their Sonic Colors. Unless you count white Orbot in Unleashed in which case, he’s changed quite a bit. Orbot’s less lazy and Cubot has a solid voice chip, but he’s still an idiot. Despite their love/hate relationship with their owner, Eggman rarely treats them with any respect. “They’re robots! They don’t need sleep because they have no souls.”
Then of course, there’s Dr. Eggman, the REAL star of the show. Not only is he the driving force of many a plot, but he’s hilarious as well. A selfish and incredibly childish man who’ll stop at nothing to destroy Sonic and his friends, yet will pal around with them at times. Eggman is a man of many talents. Cook, dishwasher, sales entrepreneur, evil despot and SonAmy fan. Evil, childish and very egotistical, Eggman is one of the most lovable villains around. My only criticism is that this must the most ineffective Eggman/Robotnik has ever been. While he has come close a few times with some of his evil schemes, he’s never been shown as a real threat to the heroes. Even the comical Robotnik of AOSTH fame has had some minor victories and is trying to take over the world. Here, Eggman can’t even get past Sonic to take control over a small village. Still, his ego won’t allow him to realize that and he claims his victories defeats are 50/50.
As a situation comedy, Sonic Boom knocks it out of the park. Every 11 minute episode has jokes a’plenty and there’s no a single episode made that hasn’t given me at least one laugh out loud moment. Eggman tends to be the best when it comes to humorous situations, but Knuckles is by far the funniest out of the main five. Situations often bring themselves up for humorous solutions and the light-hearted nature of the show is something I just love. There are some groaners that are obviously meant for kids but for the most part, it’s smartly written with plenty of humor for adults to enjoy. I look forward to every 11 minute episode every week.
However, the problem with being a situation comedy, is that it doesn’t leave much room for adventure. Sonic by nature, is an action/adventure hero and there are far too many stories that are way too domestic. Sure, there have been stories like “Buddy, Buddy Temple” or “Circus of Plunders” where the action takes place away from home, but more than often every action scene or fight takes place at either Eggman’s lair or in front of the hero’s homes. Eggman and Sonic only attack each other when they’re not hanging out with each other, or cracking jokes. Next thing you know, Sonic’s next adventure will be returning an overdue library book. Oh wait! THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying the show and it’s hilarious, but I just wish there was a better balance of humor and adventure. I think the first episode “The sidekick” was a good example of that.
Also, there isn’t that much variety in the kind of stories told. Eggman comes up with a new attack against the heroes and hi-jinks ensue. Tails latest invention misfires and the gang turns against him only for him to re-tweak it and save the day (that happened 3 TIMES in less than 20 episodes). Sonic and the gang get interrupted by some villainous event as they are eating at Meh Burgers. As T.W. Barker once put it, it “borders on formulaic”, so much so that Sonic and Eggman actually schedule their next fight in their planners. Now, I can’t totally blame the writers on this as being a CGI show, you are limited to the number of locals that a story can take place. This leads to all stories mainly centering around the island village. This can easily lead to stories feeling similar and less adventurous. Also remember, they told us from the start that this show was a situation comedy and in that case, it succeeds greatly.
Sonic Boom’s major sin is actually it’s 11 minute time frame. It’s used for a lot of cartoons nowadays and many writers are successful with it. However, with Sonic Boom having some action/adventure elements to it, the stories tend to end either way too abruptly or having too shallow a story to fill it’s 11 minutes. “Aim Low” is a good example of both. After another huge defeat by Sonic, Eggman slumps back to his lair and basically gives up. He sees an ad by a motivational speaker named “Soar the Eagle” (hilariously voiced by Travis Willingham) and hires him as his personal guru. After gaining the slightest bit of confidence, he fires Soar, but goes right back into his slump. Meanwhile, Sonic is becoming paranoid by Eggman’s lack of attacks and is driving his friends nuts. They solve this by faking an attack at Eggman’s lair even though Eggman is just sitting around in his pajamas and watching TV. When an annoyed Eggman finally throws an insult at Amy, Sonic gets in Eggman’s face and the two go at it. It ends with the gang smiling as they watch Sonic and Eggman fight. It’s actually a pretty decent episode thanks to some smart writing. However, Soar the Eagle, while being very funny, felt like filler after being fired since Eggman went right back to where he started. the worst part is that ending. It’s just the gang smiling for two seconds then fading to black, leaving no room for any sort of prologue. Look at this versus the very recent “Let’s play a game of musical friends” episode where Orbot and Cubot defeat the villain and then Eggman and Sonic talk over when to fight next before he leaves. It’s a funny moment and gives the viewer some breathing room before ending the story. I would sacrifice one or two jokes if it meant that we could get a more solid prologue instead of “andthenSonicwontheend!”
If there’s one difference that bugs me a bit, it’s the unnecessary change to the Badniks. Sorry, I meant “Minions”. While Motobug remains Motobug, the Buzz Bombers are now called “Bee Bots” (despite the fact they are actually based on wasps) and Crabmeat gets the too descriptive name of “Robot Crab”. Bill Freiberger says this makes it easier for kids to know which minion is which, but to me it’s like calling a Goomba from Super Mario Bros “Shroom Head”. These characters have been around since the first game so for me, changing their names just feels wrong.
Speaking of lack of names, Tails plane is known as…. Tails plane. not “the Tornado”. This also feels off as we have an episode that shows just how much Tails loves his plane and it has almost become a character in his own right. If you love something , even an inanimate object, you tend to give it a name. It’s actually unusual for him NOT to.
All said though, Sonic Boom is a hilarious cartoon. Eggman’s childish antics are always fun to watch and I look forward to Knuckles idiotic comments each and every week. While fairly domestic and less adventurous, the stories tend to be a lot of fun and the character interactions lead to some great, hilarious moments.Not to mention that Sonic seems closer to his friends than ever before. The enjoyment I have for this series outweighs my criticisms. If I had to list it in my favorite Sonic animated series, it would be close to, if not at the top (Sonic SATAM is tough to beat) and since we still have an entire second season to go, it may end up my favorite Sonic series in the long run.