Retro-Active: The Sonic OVA

A look at one of the lesser-known Sonic cartoons
January 22, 2010
Retroactivity:The act of purposefully seeking out popular objects or trends of past generations.

Knowing and recognizing all of the wonders of the past is an arduous and almost impossible task. Being born in the late 80's it is safe to say that I missed out on some great things. It could have been the fact that I simply hadn't been born yet or that I was too young to understand the complexity and deeper intricacies of something. The fact remains that some things simply are too good to be missed, but now I'm older and (hopefully) more mature, so what's stopping me (and any of us for that matter) to seek out those marvels of a lost age?

I've been a Sonic the Hedgehog fan for as long as I can remember. I own all the Genesis games, seen all the Saturday morning shows and even own most of his current next-gen adventures (with the exception of Sonic 06, that just went too far). I did miss one particular gem of Sonic memorabilia though, and through some YouTube research I finally found that one thing missing in my collection:

Sonic the Hedgehog the Movie

Released in Japan in 1996, the Sonic OVA (as it's more often called) relied on elements introduced in the Sonic CD anime segments. The drawings and animation are similar (and sometimes even identical) and the action is just as fast-paced. For those sorry saps who haven't played Sonic CD here are the scenes as seen in the US version: (Sonic CD opening) (Sonic CD ending)

The Characters

One thing that was spot-on in the Sonic OVA were the characters and the way they were presented. Out of all the depictions of the Sonic cast these renditions were, in my opinion, by far the best and the closest to the source material. But then again, Sonic Team was quite involved in the creation of this anime, something that Sonic X or Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog couldn't really say. Time for a quick rundown of all the characters:

Sonic The Hedgehog

What's a Sonic film without the blue blur himself? He's arrogant, he's lazy and he's got an attitude (remember, Sonic used to be like that). He does end up saving the world in the end. This is one of the things current gen Sonic games seem to forget and this film illustrates perfectly: Sonic is an asshole. He'd much rather lazy about listening to music and let Tails do all the work. When challenged though, Sonic will push back just as hard as the one challenging him. He's stubborn to a fault, and not a particularly trusting character. Fun fact: Sonic is the fastest thing alive, yet he doesn't care much for racing.

Miles "Tails" Prowers

Sonic's sidekick and resident tech-freak. Due to Tail's high IQ people often tend to forget that he's 5 years old, Sonic included. As a result, Tails often throws tantrums when Sonic is reluctant to help or acts like he doesn't care. He basically acts like the stereotypical little kid in the film, only the kind that does actually do something useful once in a while. Fun fact: for those who don't know yet, his name is a pun on the phrase Miles per hour.

Knuckles the Echidna

Everyone's favourite Echidna is present and accounted for as well (why he's supposed to be an echidna I'll never know). Knuckles was introduced as the villain in Sonic 3 but we later found out it was Eggman/Robotnik that tricked him into helping Eggman. This is one of the things that annoys me the most about current depictions of Knuckles: the fact that the developers think he's a flaming idiot. He supposedly falls for any tricks Eggman (or anyone, for that matter) plays on him. Luckily, the film does get it right and portrays Knuckles the way he should be in my opinion: Street-wise, dexterous, and quite rational most of the time (even though he does have a rather short temper). It does show that Knuckles has lived most of his life in seclusion though, as he is rather impolite and very shy towards girls. What is up with that hat though? Fun fact: the emblem on Knux' chest is the same as the Nike's logo (quite obvious I know, but the developers did do that on purpose).

Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik

Can't spell Sonic the Hedgehog without R-O-B-U-T-T-N-I-K can we. Dr Robotnik/Eggman (whichever name you prefer) has been the main antagonist of the series since its humble beginnings. Scary smart, strangely childish, scheming and deceptive till the end, and let's not forget the fact that he's a complete egomaniac and megalomaniac (seriously, his face is on everything). Dr. Robotnik relies on his machines to take care of his nemesis Sonic, and this time he's built the ultimate machine to try and destroy his arch-enemy, a creature with an uncanny likeness to the hero...
Fun fact: Robotnik's Japanese name comes from the Beatles song I Am The Walrus. His looks were inspired by the American president Theodore Roosevelt. For the record; let's refrain from the whole Eggman/Robotnik name discussion. Both names are valid and acknowledged as canon k?

Metal Sonic

Dr. Robotnik's ultimate creation, Metal Sonic is a complete copy of Sonic, only then better and more evil. Metal Sonic's debut was in the aforementioned Sonic CD and he plays a similar role in this film: he's basically Eggman's trump card. Out to destroy the world by melting the polar caps that keep the planet together, Metal Sonic is an especially dangerous foe. His only flaw? He might have copied a bit too much of Sonic's personality...

The President, Sara and that weird owl guy

Comic relief at best, these three characters are hardly of influence to the story. The president is, well, the president of the world. Sara's his daughter and the stereotypical "damsel in distress" and the owl guy is just weird. One thing though: what is up with Sara having cat ears and a tail? I never got that one...

The Story

The story is fairly straightforward: Sonic and Tails are summoned by the President because Eggman is up to no good again. It turns out Eggman is already in the presidential lounge waiting for the duo and explains to them that a "Metal Robotnik" created a bomb that is set to blow up in one day. Sonic and Tails set out towards Eggman's lair to destroy Metal Robotnik and with a little help from Knuckles they succeed.

Sonic and Tails fight Metal Robotnik

As they race towards Eggman's lair to shut off the bomb a trap is sprung locking Sonic in and copying his data. It is then that Eggman's true intentions are revealed.

Eggman's trap to copy Sonic

By copying Sonic Eggman has created the ultimate machine: Metal Sonic. His orders? Destroy the world so Eggman and his "wife" Sara (acting as the quintessential D.I.D) can rule what's left. What happens then is a frantic race towards the glaciers that keep the planet together. As all the pieces come together a climactic battle ensues; Sonic versus Metal Sonic and Tails and Knuckles versus the impending lava flow that is out to destroy the planet.

Knuckles desperately trying to stop the lava (and one of the coolest images in the film)

Metal Sonic versus Sonic

Through a clever trick by Tails Sonic's personality starts to overflow Metal Sonic giving Sonic the advantage. Knuckles succeeds in stopping the lava but unfortunately Metal Sonic falls in. Feeling sorry for his "brother", Sonic tries to save him, but Metal Sonic refuses stating that there "should only be one Sonic".

In true Anakin Skywalker style, Metal Sonic succumbs to the lava. In the end the world was once again saved by Sonic and they could return to their peaceful lifestyle (after kicking the crap out of Eggman of course).

You were supposed to bring balance to the...oh wait wrong guy.

What made the Sonic OVA so great to me is that it completely captured the magic that is Sonic. The visuals and scenery are nothing short of amazing and truly look like the levels featured in the Sonic games. The music is catchy, kind of a mix between the Sonic R and Sonic CD soundtracks. The characters act the way you expect them to and the action is fast-paced and fitting (especially the fight between Sonic and Metal). My only problem with the film is the voice-acting. The Japanese one doesn't sound bad but the English dubbed version can be quite irritating at times. Out of all the Sonic animated features that have been released over the years, I consider this the best and most faithful to the source material. Until they make Sonic The Hedgehog featuring Keanu Reeves as Sonic and Danny DeVito as Dr. Eggman this is the one Sonic animated feature you should definitely check out.

Well, that was my first experience with retro-activity. Hope you liked it and next up in the search for gems forgotten is the merc with a mouth, back before he became so ridiculously popular (he has like, three monthly books these days?), the assassin with elan, Deadpool.

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