Original Run: July 16, 2021 - October 1, 2021 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Sonny Boy. Reader discretion is advised.***
Without warning or explanation, the world shifted, and suddenly, thirty-six students and their school found themselves floating in an endless void. Not only that, many of the students developed mysterious powers, thus greatly altering the social dynamic.
Lost in a seemingly random dimension, the students try to work together to find a way home. However, distrust, frustration, grudges, and fear begin to split everyone apart. Soon, any unity that once existed disappears.
With each passing moment, more questions come. No one knows why they are where they are or how to return. In fact, to complicate matters, some may not even want to go back.
If you are looking for an in-depth look at Sonny Boy, I am sorry to disappoint you. This post will not attempt a deep-dive into this show’s meaning or symbolism. Instead, I am here to answer a single question:
Is Sonny Boy worth your time?
I won’t deny that this series will find an audience, an audience that will defend it to the death. That said, I will not lie to you. The avant-garde nature of this show did not impress me. While there were segments of this story I thought were fascinating, thought-provoking, and gripping, overall, Sonny Boy chose to be far more obtuse than it needed to be.
But we’ll get to that bit in a moment. After all, there are plenty of positive things we can attribute to this series.
First and foremost, the animation and artwork in Sonny Boy were breathtaking. If there is one thing we can say about series that attempt to defy conventions, they usually look beautiful. From the character designs to the settings to the movements of literally everything, this show was pure eye candy from beginning to end.
The visuals were so good that they alone are almost enough to warrant a recommendation. If nothing else, Sonny Boy is an experience.
Then again, the keyword I hope you took from that was “almost.”
Still, it would be wrong of me to say Sonny Boy’s story was impossible to follow. Sure, there were problems with it, but it did have a narrative flow that, with effort on your part, did have some semblance of sense. In particular, once an episode got going, it became a lot easier to keep track of who everyone was, what everyone was doing, and what specific goals were at the moment.
Additionally, the characters’ motivations weren’t lingering questions. Essentially, the thing that drove everyone was a simple matter of survival; what can I do to better my odds of getting home. Some used logic when possible; others trusted their gut. But many were in a blind panic and drifted towards the faction that offered up the most perceived comfort.
Actually, it was great when the students finally went their separate ways. Since the vast majority of them were unnamed nobodies who were only around to fill the background, the massive cull that occurred helped focus this series. There were fewer people we had to deal with and consider.
Having to worry about the remaining individuals, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter.
Now, for the record, I didn’t hate Sonny Boy. Although I’m not what you would call a fan of this series, it did have a uniqueness that I can’t help but admire. From 2021 certainly, there has been no other anime like it; I suppose I do mean that in a good way.
As far as psychological, open-to-interpretation series go, this one wasn’t awful. This show did have its moments.
But when it is all said and done, Sonny Boy did have many problems that a lot of pretty pictures couldn’t distract from. I’m sure I’m about to get plenty of “you just didn’t understand it,” and “is any story supposed to have a point,” but to those I say,
“Come at me in the comments below.”
Would it have been too much to ask for a little continuity between episodes? Almost without fail, Sonny Boy would pick its story back up either in the middle of some event (to which we did not see the start) or after an unspecified but obviously significant amount of time had passed. This series then doubled down on this tendency by ending many episodes on a small cliffhanger.
Sonny Boy really began to become problematic when the story began to explore the powers of the main protagonist, Nagara (voiced by Aoi Ichikawa). After that point, I’ll admit, most of my understanding of this series went out the window. And as the story reached its “conclusion,” things only got worse.
Much, much worse.
Something that made Sonny Boy constantly irritating was that we, the audience, never had access to the full picture. Granted, the characters never solved all of this show’s queries. That put this series on the right path; as a helpful rule of thumb, the audience and the main characters should have simultaneous access to the same developmental information.
For example, a good mystery should: A) allow the audience the chance to put the clues together themselves and/or B) never give the protagonist a hint off-screen. Sonny Boy did the opposite of both.
I lost track of how many times characters solved a problem without even a suggestion of effort. The biggest culprit of this was Rajdhani (voiced by Hiroki Gotou). He was “the smart one,” and I have no idea if that was due to his superpower or whether he was simply that intelligent.
Heck, I can say the same thing about most of the characters in this show. Although Sonny Boy put plenty of emphasis on the supernatural powers everyone had, it only sometimes sufficiently explained what a person could do. Instead, this series decided not to give many details, which allowed its cast instant outs for most obstacles.
That was annoying because it damped the gravity of the situation everyone found themselves in.
But I can already hear it:
“Sonny Boy was a character-driven narrative. The focus was more on personal growth and facing one’s inner faults. The superpowers were secondary.”
I can see where that sentiment is coming from, but I do not believe this series succeeded on that front either. I mean, no one in this series was the least bit memorable. Therefore, the idea of this being a character-centric story is nearly a moot point.
Exhibit A: Nagara. Not one ounce of my being buys his “growth” arc. On the contrary, he mostly went from a complete pushover who complained all the time to someone utterly uninteresting.
In the end, Sonny Boy was far too wrapped up in its visuals that whatever message it was going for got lost in the noise.
I am curious; If you did enjoy this series, what were you able to take away from it? I would love to hear your interpretations because I have nothing.
I’ll wrap this review up by adding that a the-world-is-random-so-let’s-talk-about-it-with-big-philosophy-speak-words type of show needs to have a lot more than nice visuals and a calming soundtrack to get me to recommend it. I don’t hate risks; I like it when a series attempts something unique. And when such a project succeeds, they are things worth remembering.
Sonny Boy is not one of those.
While this series might have had a vision, its execution wasn’t the greatest.
Don’t get me wrong; this show’s visuals were breathtaking, and this was, without question, one of the best animated series to come out of 2021. But in the areas that mattered – story, characters, etc. – everything came off as lost and needlessly complicated.
And it didn’t have to be that way, which was a real shame. Had this show had better transitions between its episodes and if the focus was a little more refined, this could have been good.
Alas, Sonny Boy is not a series I can recommend.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Sonny Boy? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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