Oh God, make it stop. I admire Shout! Factory for releasing some obscure video game cartoons on DVD, but the fact is most are not worth it. Sonic Underground especially so. Sonic has had a successful life in both animation and video games, but he has had more failures in both than triumphs. The Sonic games have had a steady decline since the Genesis days and the animated series was really not that wonderful to begin with. Fast forward to this 1999 abomination, Sonic Underground attempted to re-write the history of Sonic the Hedgehog by giving him a brother and sister and making him the fulfiller of some ancient prophecy to take out the evil Eggman. On top of that, Sonic and his siblings all play instruments to rock out. Help me.
Sonic Underground is the third animated series based on Sega’s video game mascot. Putting a twist on the usual Sonic history, the writers decided to twist the history of the hedgehog around and place him in a futuristic style world where his loving mother had to abandon him, else a fatal prophecy would come to pass. In the care of their new mothers and fathers, Sonic, his brother Manic and sister Sonia all meet for the first time when Robotnik’s evil begins taking over the land. Uniting as a single force of good, the trio set out to take down Robotnik and continue playing the music they so love as part of the band “Sonic Underground.”
I’ve seen some real crap animation in the past, but this one really just took the cake. I had wondered how the Sonic games got consistently stupider with their storylines over time and it never occurred to me they may have been taking inspirations for the animated series from the 90s. While I remember enjoying the original Sonic animated series before, I’ve never even heard of Sonic Underground until this DVD showed up. I had wondered if it was something a little more modern, but it just turned out to be some weird series from the 90s that somehow lasted thirty-five episodes.
The whole series is really just a giant mess. The stories are a horrible mish mash of plot that is barely strung together and with horrible progression. In the pilot alone, we see Sonic with his parents in one scene, saying loving things to him and then, immediately in the next scene, we see them telling him to run. It’s the most jarring and utterly annoying transition I’ve ever seen and I’m still amazed that the writing and storytelling in this series was so very poor.
For a game where you merely ran, really fast and jumped on people to kill them, for a show about rock band playing hedgehogs in a futuristic world where they fulfill a prophecy is…well, it’s a giant leap. On top of weak writing and sometimes flakey animation, the show has a voice cast that has them sounding like their past roles. Maurice LaMarche plays the role of a Robotnik baddy who sounds nearly identical to Brain, while Jaleel White plays the roles of all three hedgehogs, with the only different sounding one is the female hedgehog has the noticeably higher pitched voice, of course.
As if the show itself wasn’t bad enough, we got the hedgehog trio forming a freakin’ rock band, meaning there’s music and singing in the show. Now Sonic has had some cheesy music and lyrics in the video games, so I’ve grown to accept that whenever I attempt to play his latest game. Here, however…I just…I was astonished by what I was watching. I’ve never been shocked into silence while watching musical numbers in songs before. Usually I just stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la la la”, but this time I couldn’t even do that. I was just horrified. It was bad.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Skip this release. There wasn’t a single episode on this set I enjoyed and I cannot imagine having to watch it again. If you absolutely hate someone, then buy them this for the holiday season. It will ruin their Christmas.
Of course, compared to previous Shout! factory releases where the special features were sparse, this one actually has some featurettes. Lovely. Packaged in a cardboard slipcase with two thin-paks, there are two discs per thin pak with prongs that are easily broken. My set came with four broken prongs, three of which belong to the fourth disc in the set, making it impossible for it to stay in place. Cover art for both sets is the same, with the backgrounds of the interior being different for each pack, heroes featured on case one and villains on case two. Menus for both sets have annoying (like the show) animated intros you can’t skip and are easy to navigate. Video is interlaced, but overall a very nice transfer with decent Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. Unfortunately this great of a transfer allows you to see every action and hear every word…damn the quality of the DVD format.
Discs one and two contain only episodes, while disc three and four are the extra discs. The first featurette is “Developing The Underground”, a retrospective with executive producer Robby London, who recounts what it was like to work and create the series. “Songs From the Underground” is next and follows songwriter Michael Piccirillo and executive producer Robby London as they take a look at the original music written for the show, lyrics and all.
“Music Video Jukebox” takes the music from the show and makes little music videos from them; “Storyboard-to-Screen” shows the opening title sequence in original storyboard form and then the final product, while “Original Concept Art” shows us some of the possibilities for the show. Finally we have the greatest extra a DVD set could contain: a fourth disc dedicated to music from the show. Featuring eight of the Sonic Underground’s “greatest hits”, this extra would be the best thing ever if the music was so very irritating to listen to. I really wish more shows would release soundtracks along with the DVDs and I’m really sad this is the first set I’ve reviewed that contained one.
Overall the set is representative of what the show is. If for some reason you enjoy the show (and I assume there are enough of you out there to warrant this release), then by all means…enjoy it. I don’t care. I just don’t want to see it ever again. This is a horrible show for a video game character I love. There were few redeemable qualities about the series and I almost hated trashing it so hard after actually hearing from some of the production staff on it, but not enough to change my mind about the series. Fans of the series should eat this set up, but anyone who hasn’t seen it before should just stay away. Skip it.