Super Sonico: The Animation
Super Sonico, usually shortened to just Sonico -- or Nico by her closest friends -- divides her time between her band, working at her grandmother's cafe, going to college and working as a gravure idol on the side.
I imagine Japanese popular culture must be reaching its saturation point when it comes to virtual icons by now, spearheaded by popular media's almost feverish habit of turning just about anything into a mascot character, usually female. Among the most famous ones are the Vocaloid lineup of characters, but Sonico herself was apparently no slouch in the popularity department since she can showcase a relatively impressive lineup of general media; games, manga, figurines....
And now that includes an anime show. Which, aside from some of the official character art, is the only kind of media centered around her character I have actually seen. Comparisons with K-on are inevitable, since Sonico's main desire is centered around the band for whom she sings and plays lead guitar; First Astronomical Velocity, but said band actually doesn't feature all that often in the show itself, except maybe indirectly through each individual music video ending, where the show reverts to the kind of 3D CG I imagine the currently existing game features, and also literally front and center through most of the last episode.
Super Sonico: The Animation is also mainly about Sonico -- yeah, I know; it goes without saying, given the show title -- but recurring guest characters can also be seen from time to time. Sonico rarely spends her time alone.
Curiously enough, Sonico herself is possibly more of a character than some of the other regulars. It's probably a given that if you give a girl pink hair, then she's going to have a cheerful personality, and Super Sonico: The Animation doesn't seem to want to challenge that notion. It's a little bit of a give and take with her, though. She's a college student, which is actually a bit of a rarity in anime, and she's also apparently a top-notch student. We only have the show's word for that, though, because her personality is a little bit too scatterbrained and full of naivete for me to buy completely into it, even if it's a nice gesture of the show not to make her a complete dumbass. She's also a gravure model and a member of the indie rock band "First Astronomical Velocity" (as mentioned in the synopsis), and when she's not involved in either of those, she can often be found working in her grandmother's cafe.
In contrast, her bandmates tend to be on the simplistic side, and that's putting it lightly. Suzu Fujimi is the band's leader and bassist, and will often be seen wearing her trademark nurse fetish costume. She's a bit of a pervert and... well, that's about it. The third member, Fuuri Watanuki, is the band's drummer and.... well, she's often distracted by food. I really wish there were more to it than that, but that's pretty much all you get.
With a show centered around a mascot character specifically created to have huge breasts, and considering her work as a gravure idol, the fanservice here is curiously restrained. Most of it is basically shown when Sonico is at work, and consists of mainly scenes with swimsuits or various cosplay costumes. There's no nudity to speak of, and most of her gravure work is treated with an odd sense of professionalism, mostly thanks to her manager, Kitamura, a man wearing a demon mask with flaming yellow/orange-ish hair. He's fairly protective of Sonico's work, always cutting any attempts to take advantage of her generosity and naivete short, sometimes with a sword. Would I rather she'd look after herself? Sure, but it's still nice to see a sense of professionalism applied to objectification, given the disturbing lack of it in other shows I could namedrop. Outside of work, Sonico's outfits are surprisingly normal. She's often seen in her trademark outfit -- a white sweater with blue sleeves, a winter-camo patterned vest with a hood, greyish brown shorts and long, purple stockings -- but most of her outfits worn outside work are curiously normal; mostly sweathers and jackets you could actually see people wearing.
As a comedy, it falls a bit on the wayside, though. The main source for laughs found in Super Sonico is mostly centered around the other characters' tiresome traits, like Suzu's pervertedness and Fuuri's food fixation. The stupidity gets to a peak during episode 6 and 8, the first being a rather odd parody of zombie movies and the second being a poor excuse for a crime drama. But even outside of that, the show doesn't really have it in itself to coax out the laughs, mostly because it's too hung up on character traits and the jokes about them that's been done before, in many other shows, often not much better. Kitamura's odd mask is probably the closest this show has gotten to getting a laugh out of me, mostly because most people are taking it very much in stride, but it becomes a very effective tool if someone tries to take advantage of Sonico's goodwill. The only other oddity is Sonico's headphones, which are always present, even when she's in the bath. How much those are going to throw you off while watching this depends on how well you know the character before going into this show.
The slice-of-life parts are more of a mixed bag, which is a shame, because it's also where Super Sonico finds most of its strength. The introduction episode does a good job of setting up the character of Sonico, and while her bandmates weren't exactly the most captivating of characters, her grandmother seemed like a nice person (voiced by Inoue Kikuko, no less) and the old guys at the cafe actually did a good job at livening up the atmosphere of said place with their generally harmless flirting, giving the place a welcoming, friendly feel to it. The third episode also sees Sonico and her manager travel to Okinawa, which allowed for a pretty nice episode with a good mix of generally harmless fanservice and some lovely scenery. It was also unfortunately the setting for the second example of unprofessionalism at work, and while the manager, like the first time, put a quick stop to it, it was still there to put a mildly sour note to an otherwise lovely episode.
And then, there was episode seven. In it, Sonico took some time off to go to to Nigata to attend some kind of stargazing event, but also to just look around the place, maybe even find a relatively famous hotspring motel of sorts, and it was a lovely episode -- no lie; if all episodes had been like that one, I would actually have pondered the possibility of ranking this show four stars, if a weak one at that. It took all the best parts of Super Sonico, slathered them in pastoral settings and quiet, understated meetings with the local populace, including a woman working as a glass blower who invited Sonico into her workshop and allowed her to make something small for herself. Even the inevitable hotspring scene was more relaxing than titillating, more in line with the one in Aria the Animation rather than hotspring scenes from every harem show ever made. Fellow reviewer Nicoletta jokingly pondered the possibility that Junichi Sato might've dropped by to guest-direct an episode, because it had all the hallmarks of his work.
Maybe the reason why I eventually warmed up to Super Sonico despite its faults was its aim. Sonico didn't have a ridiculously huge dream. Instead, her life -- as well as pretty much the entire show -- consisted of many small things; short everyday events that managed to put a smile on my face, and all the neat little touches it added to that plate. I mentioned the old guys flirting with Sonico, but it's not as much flirting as an acknowledgement of not only their relationship with her, but also her grandmother, and the neighborhood they live in. It's the manager looking after Sonico as he should, making sure nobody takes advantage of her in any way. It's the photographer who noticed her being down and coaxed her good mood back to the forefront by simply asking her about her band. It's the absolutely lovely trip she took to the countryside and the people she met there. It does also have some negative sides, the two aforementioned episodes aside; Sonico might be her own person, but she's not exactly competition for the strongest female characters in anime, and her bandmates are even worse. A lot of the stuff going on in the series can get a bit asinine or maudlin (the Christmas episode in particular on the latter), and for all Sonico loves her band, the music they play isn't particularly captivating either. And more than anything, there is a chance you will grow bored watching this.
But in the end, it did indeed exceed my expectations, so a guarded recommendation it gets.
It's a relatively weak three-star rating -- more like two and a half -- but it gets three because, as I was watching it, something crazy happened: I started looking forward to each new episode. However, if any of the things I mentioned above doesn't appeal to you, feel free to detract as many stars as you think are required. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: While her street clothes doesn't necessarily hide the generousness of her chest, the show is actually not as filled with fanservice as one would expect. Cleavages and swimsuits, that's pretty much what you get. And cats stagediving onto her bust while she sleeps.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Super Sonico: The Animation © 2014 Nitroplus, White Fox, Genco.
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