|Genre||Adventure, science fiction|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Hajime Kamegaki|
|Produced by||Matato Matsumoto
|Written by||Koji Miki
|Music by||Yoshihiro Ike|
|Network||TV Tokyo (2003–2004)
Kids Station (2004–2005)
|Original run||April 6, 2003 – March 28, 2004
(last Japanese-aired episode)
|Released||May 5, 2005|
Sonic X (ソニックX Sonikku Ekkusu?) is a Japanese anime series created by TMS Entertainment and based on the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series published by Sega. The series initially ran for fifty-two episodes, which were broadcast on TV Tokyo from April 6, 2003 to March 28, 2004; a further twenty-six were aired in non-Japanese regions such as the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from 2005 to 2006. The show's American localization and broadcasting were handled by 4Kids Entertainment—which heavily edited the content and created new music—until 2012, when Saban Brands obtained the rights to the series.
The plot follows a group of anthropomorphic animals originating from the games—such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Amy Rose, and Cream the Rabbit—and a human boy named Chris Thorndyke, whom they meet after teleporting from their home planet to Earth. While on Earth, they repeatedly scuffle with antagonist Doctor Eggman and his robots over control of the powerful Chaos Emeralds, while also adjusting to their status as celebrities. The final story arc sees the friends return to their world with Chris, where they enter outer space with a newfound plant-like creature named Cosmo and fight an army of giant robots called the Metarex.
Sonic X received mixed reviews from critics. Generally, writers criticized its American localization and incorporation of some of the characters, while being more generous toward its story and aesthetics. The series was very popular in the United States and France, though less so in its native Japan. The show's merchandise included an edutainment video game for the Leapster, a trading card game, a comic book series featuring an original storyline, and various toys and other items. The phrase "gotta go fast", the title of the show's North American theme song, has survived as a Sonic catchphrase for over a decade after the show's initial release.
While Sonic the Hedgehog attempts to destroy the base of Doctor Eggman and retrieve the seven Chaos Emeralds, one of Eggman's robots inadvertently shoots a machine containing the Emeralds, which activates the "Chaos Control" technique. This teleports Sonic, Eggman, and some of Sonic's other anthropomorphic friends—Tails, Amy Rose, Cream the Rabbit (with Cheese the Chao), Cream's mother Vanilla, Big the Cat (with his frog Froggy), Rouge the Bat, Knuckles the Echidna, and the Chaotix (a detective crew comprising Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy Bee)—to Earth, the parallel-universe version of their world. Sonic is chased by police, escapes into a mansion's swimming pool, and is rescued by a twelve-year-old boy named Chris Thorndyke, who lives there with his movie-star mother Lindsey, corporate executive father Nelson, scientist grandfather Chuck, maid and chef Ella, and butler Tanaka. Chris tries to hide the animals from his family until Cream accidentally reveals them, but they all build up a good rapport with Chris' family and with Chris' friends Danny, Francis, and Helen.
The animals still want to return home, so they repeatedly scuffle for the Emeralds with Eggman, his robot assistants—the hyperactive, attention-seeking Bokkun and the bumbling Bocoe and Decoe—and his larger, armed robots. Eggman plans to take over the world, catching the attention of the unnamed nation's President, so Knuckles, Rouge, and federal agent Topaz work to stop Eggman. Soon, the other animals join the crusade, and when Eggman is defeated, they are all hailed as heroes. However, the unfazed Eggman awakens a creature named Chaos from a giant Emerald called the Master Emerald. The animals fight a losing battle against Chaos to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds until it absorbs all seven and becomes giant. However, an echidna girl named Tikal, who entombed herself and Chaos in the Master Emerald millenia ago, emerges from it to help placate Chaos. After Sonic uses the Chaos Emeralds to become Super Sonic and defeat Chaos, it becomes placid and returns to the Master Emerald with Tikal.
Shortly thereafter, Eggman finds his grandfather Gerald Robotnik's diary and Gerald's old project Shadow in a military base. After being released by Eggman, Shadow breaks into a museum to steal an Emerald and is mistaken for Sonic, which gets Sonic arrested. Amy rescues him, but Shadow, Eggman, and the duplicitous Rouge escape to the space colony ARK, where Eggman threatens to use a weapon called the Eclipse Cannon to destroy Earth if Earth does not submit to his rule; he blows up half of the Moon to prove his power. Eggman collects the Emeralds to power the Cannon, but this triggers a program Gerald set up decades ago, which will destroy Earth in hours. Everyone works together to shut it down except Shadow, who is unsympathetic until Chris convinces him. Shadow and Sonic power up using the Emeralds and reroute the ARK away from Earth, seemingly killing Shadow. Eggman rebuilds the Moon, seemingly out of remorse. However, its position shifts, creating a solar eclipse, so he manufactures and sells "Sunshine Balls" to replicate sunlight. Sonic sees through his greedy motivations, and Eggman is arrested for fraud. Bokkun activates a robot named Emerl, who quickly allies with the animals, and Eggman escapes prison. Emerl wins an Emerald in a martial arts tournament involving numerous hero and villain characters, but he goes berserk and begins to wreck the city, so Cream and Cheese have to destroy him.
Later, two government physicists show up at Chris' mansion to announce that the animals' world and Earth were once a single world split into two by a cataclysmic event, but are rejoining, which will stop time irreversibly, and the only way to stop it is to send the animals back home. Tails and Chuck begin to build a gate to teleport the animals back to their own world with Chaos Control, but Chris does not want them to leave. When it is finished and all of the animals but Sonic have left, Chris suddenly shuts the machine down and whisks Sonic into the woods to hide. Sonic is understanding, and Chris' parents find him and promise to spend more time with him. With Chris' approval, Sonic returns to his own planet, stopping the merging of the worlds.
Season three begins six months later. A race of villainous robots known as the Metarex attempt to steal the Emeralds from Sonic, but he scatters them across the galaxy. Meanwhile on Earth, where six years have passed and Chris is now eighteen, Chris builds another device to return to the animals' world; he is twelve again when he arrives. A sick plant-like girl named Cosmo lands on their planet and they nurse her back to health, so she joins them, and they all board Tails' new spaceship, the Blue Typhoon. On the Typhoon, they scour the galaxy for the Emeralds and "Planet Eggs" (objects that allow life to flourish on planets, which the Metarex have stolen to depopulate the galaxy) and fight the Metarex at every turn. Eggman joins the Metarex shortly after. Along the way, Tails and Cosmo slowly fall in love. Later, Rouge finds Shadow alive in a capsule on Eggman's ship and releases him. At one point, he saves Chris from the Metarex before disappearing, but he reappears and tries to kill Cosmo, much to Tails' anger. The Metarex's leader, Dark Oak, appears and reveals that the Metarex and Cosmo are of the same species and that they secretly implanted a tracking device in her brain while extinguishing the rest of their kind; she has been an unwitting spy ever since. Chris, Knuckles, and Tails notice that removing the device will likely destroy her sight and hearing forever. Knuckles pushes for it to be removed anyway, but Tails refuses, so the surgery is called off and the battle against the Metarex continues.
The heroes find the Chaotix and Shadow, and everyone heads to the center of the universe, where the Metarex are ominously controlling a planet that is made of water and contains a Planet Egg. After Sonic almost drowns in it, the planet begins turning into a giant seed; the Metarex reveal that, because they have lost the battle, they will destroy the galaxy with this planet. Cosmo sees a vision from her mother Earthia, telling her that she must sacrifice herself to save the rest. She fuses with the giant seed and instructs Tails to use the Blue Typhoon's cannon to fire Super Sonic and Super Shadow at her and the seed and destroy them. He does, in tears the whole time, and annihilates the Metarex. Back on the animals' world, Sonic and Shadow reappear and solemnly inform Tails that they could not revive Cosmo and only found a seed of hers; Cream and Amy try to cheer him up. With a change of heart, Eggman builds a device for Chris to return home but promptly reverts to his old ways after Chris leaves. The series ends with Cosmo's seed sprouting.
Creation and development
The show was created by TMS Entertainment. It was the first anime series based on the Sonic universe. It was primarily influenced by other anime rather than work from the West, where Sonic was also popular, and was created for a Japanese audience. Yuji Naka, then the head of Sonic Team, filled in as executive producer, and Yuji Uekawa created all of the original characters. Most of the series consists of original content with numerous original characters in addition to established characters, but the second season is mostly based on the plots of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. While traditionally animated, it includes non-outlined CGI elements for things such as Sonic's homing attack.
Two trailers for the series were produced. The first was produced before Cheese had been given a name with Sonic Advance 2 (2002); it referred to Cheese simply as "Chao". It was made up largely of footage that would later appear in the series' intro, but also of unused scenes featuring unique anthropomorphic animals. Sega showed off the second, which was narrated in Japanese, at its booth at the World Hobby Fair video gaming event in February 2003. It consisted mostly of scenes from the first few episodes, followed by introductions to the main characters. However, it also showed a still frame of a silver anthropomorphic hedgehog (not identified as Silver the Hedgehog) who never appeared in the series.
Several of the Japanese voice actors had voiced their characters in the games, but they were also given ample information about their characters' roles in the anime. Chris' voice actress Sanae Kobayashi was not sure she would be able to effectively communicate Chris' growth as a person due to Sonic's presence, but found that a worthwhile goal. Chikao Ōtsuka, who voiced Eggman, found him a difficult character to play due to the tension in his voice and Ōtsuka's desire to have children who watched the show recognize the character as a villain but not hate him.
Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka believed that Sonic X and its merchandise, along with the game Sonic Heroes, had helped expose the Sonic franchise to a new generation of potential gamers in 2003, and he dubbed it a "Sonic Year" as a result. More boldly, Naka hoped that Sonic X alone would cause the popularity of the Sonic series to skyrocket, as that of the Pokémon series did after its anime adaptation was first released.
Broadcast and localization
4Kids Entertainment handled the show's American localization. The episodes were heavily edited for content and length; 4Kids has been described by Destructoid as being "infamous" among anime fans for this type of overzealous editing. 4Kids removed alcohol consumption and coarse language, instances of breaking the fourth wall, and numerous romantic scenes. However, unlike in some other series 4Kids translated around the early- to mid-2000s, such as Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, no full episodes were cut from Sonic X. Producer Michael Haigney personally disliked realistic violence in children's programs, but had not intended to make massive changes himself. Instead, he was bound by Fox Broadcasting Company's strict guidelines, which forbid content such as smoking and strong violence. In 2006, near the end of the show's American production, Haigney stated in an interview that he had never played a Sonic game, read the comics, or watched any of the previous Sonic animated series.
4Kids found new voice actors rather than using those from the games, with auditions beginning in early 2003. They invited Mike Pollock to audition for Eggman, having known him from his work on Ultimate Muscle and Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, and chose him for his yelling and pitch-wavering talents; Pollock also voiced Ella. 4Kids allowed Pollock to make minor alterations to the dialogue when lines "[didn't] work for some reason". He recalled being given only short samples of Eggman's voice from the games—he was not told specifically which game—and brief descriptions of his characters' roles.
Sonic X aired in Japan on TV Tokyo's 8:30 am time slot from April 6, 2003 to March 28, 2004. It consisted of three seasons, each of them 26 half-hour episodes long. The series suffered from poor ratings in Japan, so the third season has never aired in that country despite being produced there. 4Kids licensed the series in North America from the beginning; ShoPro Entertainment was also made a license holder in November 2003. It aired in North America on the Fox Box block of Fox channels. The series was also localized for other countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In June 2012, the bankrupt 4Kids sold its Sonic X license to Saban Brands's Kidsco Media Ventures.
The series was released on DVD; in Japan, only seasons one and two were released, and their 52 episodes spanned 13 discs. 4Kids released the "Project Shadow" DVD in North America, covering the first arc that focused on Shadow (episodes 33–38), on November 15, 2005 to tie in with the release of the game Shadow the Hedgehog.
The Japanese version of Sonic X was scored by Yoshihiro Ike. Its opening theme was "Sonic Drive", performed by Hironobu Kageyama and Hideaki Takatori. The series included three ending themes: "Mi-ra-i" (ミ・ラ・イ Future?) by Run&Gun for episodes 1–13, "Hikari Michi" (光る道 Shining Road?) by Aya Hiroshige for 14–39 and again for 53–78, and "T.O.P" by Uru for 40–52. 4Kids hired several composers to write a background score for the North American release "for both artistic and commercial reasons". The North American opening and closing theme, titled "Gotta Go Fast", was performed by Norman J. Grossfeld and Russell Velazquez. A soundtrack titled Sonic X ~Original Sound Tracks~ was released in Japan on March 8, 2004; it consisted of 40 tracks of original music from the first two seasons.
Sonic X was extensively merchandised in various forms of media and other products. Two Game Boy Advance Videos of episodes from the first season of Sonic X were released in May 2004. In October 2004, ShoPro licensed four manufacturers to create Sonic X merchandise; they variously produced items such as bedding, beach towels, backpacks, stationery, and pajamas. Six Sonic X novels were published between 2005 and 2007: Aqua Planet, Dr. Eggman Goes to War, Battle at Ice Palace, and Desperately Seeking Sonic by Charlotte Fullerton, Meteor Shower Messenger by Paul Ruditis, and Spaceship Blue Typhoon by Diana G. Gallagher.
|Publication date||September 2005 – December 2008|
|Number of issues||40|
|Writer(s)||Ian Flynn, Joe Edkin|
|Penciller(s)||Tim Smith III|
Archie Comics, publisher of the main Sonic the Hedgehog comics, started a Sonic X series in 2005. It was originally set to run for only four issues, but was extended to 40 issues due to high demand. The last issue was released in December 2008, and it kicked off the Sonic Universe arc of the comics. The comics were written by Ian Flynn, who also authors the main Sonic comics.
While the comics are set during the Sonic X timeline, their plot is original. Eggman imprisons humans inside robots and tries to use them to kill the animals, but the animals destroy the robots. Eggman uses malicious Chao to destroy Station Square, but Tikal and Chaos arrive from the past, return the Chao to normal, and bring them back to the past. Soon, Sonic finds a machine in the desert and thinks nothing of it, but after fighting with Eggman in Paris and a bizarre world created by the doctor, Eggman reveals the desert machine was his and it begins to wreck Station Square. Sonic defeats it, but he is accused of working with Eggman, so he and Eggman are both locked up. Nelson bails Sonic out of jail, and he saves Cream and Chris from some ghosts.
Eggman enacts more malicious schemes based on holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day, Afterwards, he temporarily fires Decoe and Bocoe and creates replacements, Dukow and Bukow, who kidnap Sonic and give him to an organization called S.O.N.I.C.X. Sonic escapes with ease, but S.O.N.I.C.X. repeatedly tries to ruin his reputation. Meanwhile, the animals take on Eggman in his various schemes—including becoming a wrestler and creating a circus—to keep the Emeralds from him. In the final issue, Metal Sonic appears and allies with Eggman to defeat Sonic, but Shadow steps in and warps himself and Metal Sonic to another dimension.
In 2003, McDonald's packaged five different single-button dedicated console games, mostly based on various sports, with Happy Meals to promote Sonic X: two featuring Sonic and one each for Tails, Knuckles, and Shadow. Another Happy Meal game based on Big the Cat fishing arrived the following year.
LeapFrog Enterprises released a Sonic X educational math game for its Leapster handheld game console; it was released in 2005 in North America and 2007 in Europe. The game stars Sonic and Chris, who must rescue Tails, Amy, and Knuckles from Eggman. It is a fast-paced platform/action game in which Sonic runs and jumps through levels and destroys Eggman's robots along the way. Periodically, Sonic must answer math questions to continue. The game features three levels, each with its own math concepts: the city Station Square (sequencing, counting in increments); Angel Island, the home of the Master Emerald (addition); and Eggman's base (subtraction). There are also math-based minigames unrelated to the levels to supplement these skills.
Trading card game
Score Entertainment created a Sonic X collectible card game for two players, released in 2005. Players battle for Chaos Emeralds; whoever gets three first wins. Each turn, both players lay out five cards face-down and flip over one at a time; whichever card has a lower number value is eliminated. Eliminating the other player's cards and combining the special abilities of one's own cards allows one to score rings; whichever player has the most rings at the end of the turn wins an Emerald. As the game does not emphasize collecting rare cards, a few booster packs are enough to build a competent deck. KidzWorld gave a positive review, praising its ease of learning, low cost, and inherent strategy, but also noting that it feels more like a generic card game with Sonic characters than like a wholly Sonic-based product.
Sonic X has had a middling reception; Conrad Zimmerman of Destructoid cited its "horrible localization" as a main reason for negativity. Tim Jones of THEM Anime gave the show two stars out of five and criticized the English voice acting: "It's really annoying how all the recent Sonic games use these untalented actors/actresses in their dubs, because they make the original English voices sound like award-winning performers." Other comments on the show's aesthetics, however, were mostly positive. Staff of GamesRadar admitted, "At least the song fits. Can't imagine Sonic listening to Underground's wailing Meat Loaf light rock, but he'd definitely jam to Sonic X." Jones praised the rock music from Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, as well as the "pretty piano music" and "catchy" Japanese intro and outro themes. Jones found the backgrounds "nice to look at" but did not like the use of CGI for Sonic's homing attack.
The human characters—and, to a lesser extent, the animal ones—were also criticized. Jones decried Chris as "a dull, boring, uninspired character" and also described Tanaka and Ella as "bland" stereotypes of Japanese- and African-Americans, respectively. Jones also criticized the presence of Amy and Big, but took particular issue to the show's portrayal of Sonic, which he summarized as: "'I'm gonna run around downtown until something exciting happens and use a stinking Ring to defeat my enemies'". GamesRadar bemoaned both the "piss-poor Adventure characters" and the original human ones. In contrast, writer Gaz Plant of NintendoLife opined that "one of the key successes" of the series was its incorporation of numerous characters from the games, including lesser-used ones like Big and the Chaotix. Fans were divided on the merit of the Thorndykes.
However, the show was well received for faithfully following the format of the games. Famitsu offered a uniformly positive review before the first episode broadcast in 2003, commending the skillful transition of the games' speed and style to animation, and expected the series to continue to grow more interesting. Plant stated that "where Sonic X truly succeeded was in its retelling of iconic stories". Independent of the characters involved, GamesRadar appreciated the idea of following "Sonic's core concept." The original storylines were also well received. Amidst his criticism of most of the show, Jones praised the first episode in general, especially its humor. Plant acclaimed the character development that built on the stories of the original games, especially Sonic's and Amy's relationship and the Chaotix's newfound viability as comedy devices. Concurrently, he found the show "surprisingly touching", particularly in its "emotional" final climax, and favorably compared the space exploration of season three to Star Trek. Famitsu's first preview called the story profound (重厚 jūkō?).
Common Sense Media gave it three stars out of five and, while not commenting further on its quality, stated that it was appropriate for grade-school children but that some violent scenes were inadvisable for younger viewers. A second Famitsu review from later in 2003 called the anime an outstanding success and encouraged readers to tune in.
Popularity and cultural impact
The show was quite popular in the United States and France, consistently reaching the number-one position in its timeslot in both countries. By 2007, it was TMS' best-selling anime in the non-Japanese market, despite the third season never airing in Japan, and it inspired TMS to focus on properties that would sell well outside Japan. In 2009, a six-year-old Norwegian boy named Christer pressed his parents to send a letter to King Harald V of Norway to approve his name being changed to "Sonic X". They allowed Christer to write it himself but did not send it until he badgered them further, and the king responded that he could not approve the change because Christer was not eighteen years old. Extending over a decade past the show's initial release, the phrase "gotta go fast" has been used in the titles of video game periodical articles to represent the Sonic series and other fast-paced video games.
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