Seven years before Sonic X debuted, Sonic the Hedgehog was seen in another anime cartoon along with several other familiar characters from the Sonic universe. A two-part video series, entitles Sonic OVA (Original Anime Video), was released in 1996, and told the story of Sonic’s most dangerous mission yet. It would feature the first animated appearances of Knuckles the Echidna and Metal Sonic (known here as Hyper Metal Sonic) and become one of Sonic’s best known cartoons. In America, the anime was reformatted into a single, hour-long cartoon called Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie and would prove to be entertaining despite some flaws. Today, I shall tell you more about this, Sonic’s first foray into the world of Japanese anime.
The story begins with Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower, the two-tailed fox, spending a day at the beach, when all of a sudden, our speedy hero has to save Tails and an absent-minded owl when the latter’s ship goes out of control. Afterward, they learn that the President wishes to see Sonic immediately. It turns out, both he and his daughter Sara have been captured by Sonic’s most famous nemesis, Doctor Robotnik. The reason that he is holding them is that an evil robotic version of himself is threatening the Lands of the Sky and Darkness by damaging a generator, which is on the verge of explosion. Despite his suspicions, Sonic heads out, along with Tails, to the Land of Darkness with the aid of their plane, the Tornado.
While in the Land of Darkness, they find Metal Robotnik, and are engaged in a lengthy battle in the process. At one point, they get stuck in a glue-like projectile, only to be rescued by Knuckles (who wears a hat much of the time here). Eventually, the robot is defeated, but what our heroes do not suspect is that Robotnik was controlling it, and Sara was trapped inside. In the meantime, Sonic and his friends mange to locate the generator, and just before it can explode, they deactivate it. However, the whole thing turns out to be a trap: Sonic’s DNA is subsequently studied and is used to create Robotnik’s latest diabolical machine, Hyper Metal Sonic, which is designed to look and act like Sonic in every way, except that he works for the forces of evil.
After losing to his metallic twin, Sonic returns to the Land of the Sky, where he learns that Metal’s plan is to destroy some ice caps, which would result in lava eventually destroying the world. Once the Land of the Sky was no more, Robotnik would then marry Sara, a plan that, needless to say, she hates with a passion. Upon their arrival at the North Pole, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles would help each other battle the metallic fiend and his master. At one point, Tails manages to use a special watch that Robotnik gave to him earlier to mess with Metal’s information. However, this awakens his ability to feel the real Sonic’s emotions, and he rescues the President when the latter is trapped within his ship, which is set to explode.
Ultimately, Metal makes a sacrifice: he sinks into a volcano, and despite Sonic’s efforts to save him, soon melts away. Sonic is distraught at his failure to rescue his twin after he had seemingly become reformed. Robotnik’s plans were once again foiled, but he still had a disc with Sonic’s DNA and thus could use it to create another mechanical version of the world famous hedgehog. However, a missile comes along and destroys the disc and any future hopes of success for Robotnik, at least for the time being. With Metal and the disc gone, Sara saved, and Robotnik’s plots gone down the drain, our heroes could celebrate until the next time the notorious doctor could whip up another nasty scheme.
I have not seen the Japanese version of the anime, but I have viewed the English dub, which was released in 1999 just before the U.S. release of the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure. The cartoon is a pretty solid one, being faithful to the games and being filled with action, suspense, and some humor from start to finish. It has the feel of a Sonic game: speeding through areas such as a beach and a forest feels like traveling through the zones of any Sonic game, while the battles with Metal Robotnik and Hyper Metal Sonic have epic, game-like feels to them. The music score is addictive, and the anime is an overall great attempt of bringing the Sonic games to animated life.
That said, there are still some problems, chief among them (at least in the English version) the voice acting. Sonic does not sound so cool the way that Ryan Drummond, Jaleel White, or even Jason Griffith have done so. Tails sounds like he has a cold, Robotnik fails to sound menacing, and Knuckles does not sound as tough as he should be. The character designs are a bit odd at times, and the anime is not for everyone. Since it was apparently made with Sonic’s older fans in mind, there is some questionable material such as some vulgar language, although such portions were largely left out of the English version. However, Sonic fans should not let any of these facts top them from checking out the anime at least once.
Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie marked Sonic’s first anime adventure, and it would not be the last: it was not until 2003 that he would finally star in an anime television series called Sonic X. In the meantime, Sonic’s Japanese fans, and later, fans from other parts of the world, would marvel at his antics throughout the OVA. I feel that Sonic’s initial anime production is largely a great one, and Sonic fanatics should give it a look. Track a copy down on VHS or DVD on Ebay or someplace and check out this excellent movie for yourself. I think you will agree: it is as way past cool as Sonic himself.