Sonic the Hedgehog OVA
Rated: G / 7+ :: Released: 09 September 1999
Director: Kazunori Ikegami :: Starring: Martin Burke, Edwin Neal, Bill Wise, Lainie Frasier and Sascha Biesi
By James D. Deaux IV
13 September 2007 — Anyone who has conversed with me on the Earth-2.net forums or simply reads my posts there probably knows at least two things about me: I love anime, and I love Sonic the Hedgehog. Common sense would dictate that I would love an OVA (original video animation) anime movie featuring the iconic blue blur. Was this the case? Uh... nope. Not even close. Sadly, in the case of the Sonic the Hedgehog OVA, that is about as far from reality as it gets. From the inconsistent animation, to the confusing script, to the plot holes, to the character butchering, topped off with some truly annoying voice acting, there was little joy to be had from watching this movie. There were plenty of headaches for me, though — mainly from banging my head into my desk trying to figure out what the hell was happening at any given moment.
I thought I had a rough time trying to review Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but this OVA (the English version, just to clarify) takes confusing to a whole new dimension. Unfortunately, because of this, there is just no way I can review this OVA the way I have reviewed every other movie I have written about so far. It is truly that bewildering. Therefore, I have come up with a much simpler way to present my thoughts on this embarrassment of an anime: 10 questions!
01. Is this what passes for a plot nowadays?
I've watched this anime at least 20 times (don't ask me how I'm not brain-dead yet) and I still don't know what the central plot is. By that I mean, what was the ultimate goal of the bad guy? From what I gathered through the chimp-at-a-typewriter-quality dialog (more on that momentarily), Dr. Robotnik, the archenemy of Sonic and all of his allies, has kidnapped the President of the Land of the Sky and his daughter, Sara. His plan is to force Sonic to go into the Land of Darkness — specifically Robotnik's erstwhile home, Robotropolis — to shut off a huge generator that has been overloaded by a supposedly mutual enemy: Metal Robotnik. If Sonic fails, the Planet Freedom will without doubt be destroyed by a massive explosion.
Now, of course, Robotnik is making the entire sob story up in order to get Sonic to go down into the "generator" and be trapped inside it while he copies all of Sonic's life data into a computer in order to make an evil robotic clone of him called Metal Sonic. Once he has accomplished this, he will use Metal Sonic to destroy the Land of the Sky by melting a gigantic glacier that holds the continents together. The continents will be flung into outer space and everyone will be annihilated. Robotnik will become ruler of (what's left of) the Planet Freedom and he will marry Sara because they will be the only two people left.
One question: why? What would be the point of turning the entire planet into a giant magma pit? Where would you live once this has happened? How would you survive with no plant or animal life? Disturbingly enough, these are virtually the same questions I asked every time I watched an episode of Captain Planet. And when I compare something to that disgrace of a show, you know it can't be good. Somewhere in the middle of this muddled abomination, we get a horribly butchered version of Knuckles the Echidna thrown in there for no apparent reason except to say that he was there; but I'll get into that later.
02. Did retarded monkeys write this script?
At no point while I was watching this did I witness a coherent conversation between two or more characters for more than a few seconds. It was aneurysm-inducing to try and listen to the dialog in this anime because when a conversation started, it never finished. Characters interrupt each other, spit out random, disjointed nonsense and generally just seem like they have no idea what's going on at any given moment. (Hey, at least that's one thing that I can relate to here.)
Another thing about the dialog is that at many points it's hard to tell who is talking to whom. The best example of this that I can think of is at the final battle. When Robotnik and Sara happen upon the scene, Knuckles saves Sara from falling to her death (damn it!) and he crashes into Tails along the way. They all thud into a wall of ice inside a giant snowball. After the snow is cleared, Tails is seen holding onto Sara for some reason. Knuckles yells at Tails, to which Tails immediately jumps off of her and apologizes (sounding like a toddler in the process). Knuckles then blurts out, while pointing at Sara, "I never thought you'd stoop that low." Who the hell was Knuckles yelling at: Tails or Sara? This is just a modicum of the perplexity that I find myself in each time I watch this thing.
03. Where did they find these voice actors... a preschool puppet show?
The only person who did anything worthwhile with their character was Knuckles' voice actor Mike Wise. And, of course, this OVA version of Knuckles was an utter embarrassment, so I couldn't even focus on Wise's decent work. Everyone else? Atrocious. Sonic and Tails sounded like they were roughly 12 years old... combined. Tails' voice actress, Lainie Frasier, in particular, seemed like she had a head cold during every second of production. And Sonic's voice actor, Martin Burke, sounded like he was trying to do his best Jaleel White impersonation. But his biggest problem was overacting during action scenes. Listening to him during the final battle against Metal Sonic made me want to stab my eardrums with a letter opener. I also couldn't tell what nationality Robotnik was supposed to be. My best guess is that it was German mixed with Filipino. You watch it and help me out because I have no clue. The accent was ridiculous.
04. Who are you and what have you done with the real [insert character name here]?
Sonic the Hedgehog is supposed to be the world's greatest hero. Everyone on the planet knows who he is and they look up to him as a symbol of freedom and justice. Three times in the first 10 minutes of this movie he refuses to help people in danger. Two of those times involve his best friend! Tails is surfing out in the ocean with a rocket-powered bodyboard and he can't get control of it. He yells for Sonic to help him. Sonic's response? "It's probably nothing." Tails finally gets control of the board when an out of control rocket starts chasing after him all over the water. He lets out a blood-curdling scream for help. Sonic's response? "Shut up, Tails!" At the capitol building, Robotnik has the President and his daughter held captive in the President's office by a patrol of very large robots. Robotnik reveals the aforementioned generator problem to Sonic and Tails. Sonic's response? "Forget about it — you built that stupid thing in the first place. Why should I be the one to fix your mess?" Um, maybe because he's not going to fix it; and the entire planet might be in jeopardy? That's sort of your job, you know — to defend the planet at all costs. I don't know who that meandering blue waste of space was, but it was not Sonic the Hedgehog.
In the comics and games, Knuckles the Echidna is the guardian of the Floating Island, where the Master Emerald (the infinite power source for all of the famous Chaos Emeralds) is located. He almost never leaves the island because it is his destined duty to guard the Emerald with his life. Sonic offers to let him join his group of heroes numerous times and he refuses every time. In this OVA, however...? He's a watered-down version of Indiana Jones without the bullwhip. Apparently, he is a self-important treasure hunter here and he spends most of his time in the subterranean levels of the planet looking for crap. "Hunting for buried treasure is my absolute most favorite pastime." No! Just... no! Nowhere in this thing are the Chaos Emeralds mentioned, let alone the Floating Island or his backstory. He just flies in out of nowhere to save Sonic and Tails from Metal Robotnik. He even half-jokingly complains about not getting paid for saving Sonic and Tails' lives. (Shoot me now. Please?) From there, he takes an immediate backseat to the ridiculous Sonic v Metal Sonic / Robotnik fight.
But speaking of Robotnik, apparently he is a sexual deviant now in addition to being a conniving mass murderer. He kidnaps Sara (well, sort of) in order to marry her once he destroys the planet and everyone else on it. The looks on his face whenever he's near Sara are just creepy — and not in the good way. Then, later on, he gives her a wedding dress out of nowhere. Is Robotnik a pedophile now, too? The way this horrid OVA portrays him, I can just picture Robotnik in a big, white van waiting outside a schoolyard. It's so embarrassing to watch this movie, I want to burn it.
05. Whose side are you on, anyway?
See if you can figure this scene out. After Sonic and Tails take off to stop the generator, Robotnik continues to hold the President and his daughter hostage inside their own palace. Except now, Sara and Robotnik are playing a video game together. Sara gets pissy because Robotnik continually beats her, and in the background the President is sitting at his desk grinning. You and your child are being held hostage by a power-mad scientist and you sit at your desk smiling? Also of note is that right behind the President, Robotnik's androids are dusting the curtains while wearing maid's garb. Why? Beats me. Are the androids employed by the President now? Sara demands that Robotnik play another round, to which Robotnik refuses. Sara then says, "I'll stop being your hostage." Robotnik hesitantly agrees (right...) and they play again. Robotnik beats her yet again, and the President continues to have that daft grin on his face. Sara throws another temper tantrum and demands to go for a joyride — with Robotnik! A giant pod thing (which is later revealed to be the cockpit of Metal Robotnik) bursts through the wall and Sara readily jumps in with Robotnik and his kooky "I-want-to-molest-you" smirk. They fly off and now all of the sudden, the President hops out of his seat and cries for her to come back.
Can you figure out whose side she's on? I sure as hell can't.
06. Speaking of Sara, is it wrong that I wanted to strangle her?
Think of every bratty, spoiled-rotten, young girl you have ever seen. Now multiply that by 1000 and throw in a severe case of mixed loyalties (and utter, blithering stupidity) and you have Sara. This chick is among the most annoying characters I have ever seen in anime. Unlike 75% of the characters in this animated crapfest, she (amazingly) has a definitive role: the damsel in distress. Explain to me, then, why I am supposed to feel any sympathy towards her when she willingly goes on a joyride inside a four-ton android with the main villain of the movie? Not to mention she compares her father (who, clueless and useless as he may be, mostly tries to do the right thing) to Robotnik! Supposedly, she is Sonic's love interest, but Sonic is so apathetic about everything and everyone that it never came across as a mutual attraction. (Not that I would have wished this spoiled brat upon Sonic, anyway, but whatever.) Then, when Robotnik gives her the wedding dress, she asks him why he got it for her. What the hell do you think he got it for, you nimrod — a monster truck rally? Ugh. In a fitting end to this carnival of incomprehension, she jumps right back into Robotnik's hovercraft and demands that he go after Sonic as the OVA ends. Robotnik wants to (for all intents and purposes) rape you and force you to marry him once he kills all life on the planet, and you willingly jump right back into his vehicle again? Fail. Absolute, utter fail.
07. Was this thing animated using Microsoft Paint?
Wow, was the animation ever terrible here. Every now and then there was a decent-looking background, but the overall animation was an absolute eyesore. When Sonic and Tails are speeding through the Land of Darkness, they pay homage to the 2-D games by having them run through a course that resembles one of the many "zones" from the Sega Genesis games. As nifty as this was intended to be, it's dreadfully boring to watch and the animation is choppier than a 1969 episode of Scooby-Doo. Think about it: would you want to watch someone else play Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Knuckles got it the worst, though. When he's flailing around after his hat catches fire, it looks as if they pieced him together on the animation cels using homework from a third-grade geometry class.
08. Were they even trying to get the English dubbed lip-synching to a respectable level?
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. In this case, I think Tails got it worse than anyone else, but it's not as if any of the other characters were any good, either. Words come out of characters' mouths when their mouths are clearly shut and vice versa. It's like they didn't put any believable effort into making the words and the lip movements fit together.
09. What would a review of mine be without pointing out the absurdly obvious plot holes?
— Sonic and Tails hide behind a bus in the ruins of Robotropolis and Sonic says, "We don't have time to fight some robot!" But then, once they have defeated Metal Robotnik and he is fleeing, Sonic yells at him, "Trying to get away?! I won't let you!" Make up your damn mind, you imposter.
— In the outskirts of Robotropolis, Tails gets glued to a wall by Metal Robotnik. Knuckles debuts, gliding in and cutting him free. Tails' tails are still stuck together, and thus, he can't fly — but in the very next camera pan, he uses his tails like a motorboat rotor and zooms off to save Sonic.
— Same scene, Sonic bangs his leg right into Metal Robotnik's head and gets a really nasty bruise for it. Apparently, Metal Robotnik is made of some preposterously strong alloy. Not five minutes later, Sonic spin dashes right through its torso... twice, apparently destroying it.
— Where was Robotnik keeping that wedding dress while he was flying all over the Land of Darkness? Actually, no, I don't want to know the answer to that question.
— Robotnik somehow gets dressed into a tuxedo while toddling along in that dinky little hovercraft 15,000 feet in the air.
— Once Metal Sonic has Sonic's data installed, the two go into a lengthy battle all over Robotropolis. Metal Sonic beats the hell out of Sonic leaving him for dead in a forest inside the Land of Darkness. Tails and Knuckles leave him behind by flying through a warp zone that takes them back to the Land of the Sky. Sonic eventually awakens in the forest. Roughly three scenes later, Sonic is back at the Presidential palace without any explanation as to how he got out of the Land of Darkness.
— Sara. That's all I need to say.
10. Having said all of this, whom was this damn thing made for, anyway?
On the back cover of the VHS case, it says "7+". Meaning, the people who put the English dub together intended this to be seen by 7-year-old children. I have many problems with this rating. First off, the "plot" was so confusing, even I couldn't concentrate on it for more than three minutes without going into a narcoleptic stupor. Not to mention the horrendous script and voice acting. So, if even I can't figure it out, how is a child supposed to know what's going on? Second, there are several instances in this OVA that were clearly not made for children to see. The one that comes to mind immediately is in the wasteland outskirts of Robotropolis where Sonic and Tails are battling Metal Robotnik. Sonic and Tails begin to taunt the gigantic android and out of nowhere Sonic blatantly flips Metal Robotnik the bird. I am not making this up. He indisputably gives Metal Robotnik the middle finger. Now, I can laugh at that, but that is probably not something you should let a child watch. Another moment where I question the rating is when Robotnik backlashes Sonic by saying, "Eat me!" Now, he could have been saying, "Heed me!" (and in that scene it would have made sense for him to say that). But again, the voice acting is so bad and muffled it's very hard to tell. Another instance is close to the end of the movie when Robotnik and Sara are floating around in the atmosphere. Sara imagines what it would be like being married to Robotnik, and in her dream, she is clearly breastfeeding one of her nine children. I have nothing more to say there.
In hindsight, even if the rating on the case was "18+", I'd still wonder who this was made for. I mean, it's so dreadful to watch, for people of any age, that it's practically impossible to rate it in the first place.
Grade: 15/100 — Despite everything I have written here, I am going to shock you, my readers. Unlike most other media I have reviewed (and will review), I encourage you to seek this OVA out and watch it. I am not even remotely joking. No matter who you are — fan of the franchise or not. The only reason for this is because my review can only explain so much. I was originally going to write this as I have all my past reviews — linearly — but that was impossible to do here. Once you watch it, you will truly understand everything you have just read. This is one video you absolutely must watch to fully comprehend how insane it is.