- Titles: Sonny Boy
- Genre: Drama, mystery, psychological, surreal, supernatural
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: MADHOUSE
Have you ever thought that maybe the world you live in isn’t the “real” world.? Like we’re all extras in someone else’s dream… what if you found out it was true? Would it matter? What if one day you woke up and the world was different.? Isolated and sectioned off from reality. This world would have its own internal logic and rules. And what if I told you that in this world, you could have a special power that’s only yours? Would you want to go back? Even if you didn’t get a power, there are plenty of other this worlds to explore, you might get one in the next. OK, how about we make it a bit more interesting? What if in these worlds you would never age and die? Also, a bunch of your classmates are with you so you’re not lonely. How do you feel about the supposed real world now? OK one last thing, what if, with time, you start to suspect that maybe you created all these worlds? Maybe you’re God? Or maybe God just forgot about all of you… what would you do then?
OP Sonny Boy is an original anime by Shingo Natsume. If you look online you can find a lot of fascinating articles about the challenges of selling such a project and the risks involved in the production of Sonny Boy. It’s clear this was a passion project. And already, I have to respect it for that. I’m always impressed by passion.
The production might be a bit more modest but it’s not uninteresting. If anything, they made some of those limitations into strengths. One of the things I noticed is how flat the colour palette is. Let me see if I have a screenshot to explain my point.
OK you see that sky? It’s one flat colour. Like you used the paint bucket tool in MS paint. There’s no gradient, no subtle flecks of complementary colour, no light or shadow effects. It’s that one exact shade of blue the entire time. And I have to imagine it’s much easier and quicker (therefore cheaper ) to make the sky this way.
But also, look at how it makes the characters pop! Any other colour block is going to really stand out against that flat blue sky. It creates a slightly aggressive in-your-face effect. And it does it very well.
Another example of what could have looked a bit cheap is the occasional ‘cutout scenes’. That’s just what I call them. In some scenes, especially ones where the characters are a little further away from the camera, they lose all detail and even seem to get literally rough around the edges. As if they were decoupage. A bit like old South Park cartoons. And thee effect is kind of… cool.
But what it does, along with the flat colours and art style mixes, is create a sort of visual surrealism. Regardless of what might be happening in the story, these artistic choices force the audience to remember that something is off. Something may be not quite real. I figure only an author with a firm grasp on the type of tale they want to create can weave in visual elements like that.
As for the general look of Sonny Boy. Here’s the thing, I liked it. A lot! In fact, I consider it a draw of the series. But it isn’t exactly what most people would think of as a classic anime aesthetic. And it might not be your style.
Story & Characters
I knew I wanted to watch Sonny Boy the second it came out. It was being compared to all these other animes I had liked, most notably SEL and I was ready for another weird psychological/philosophical anime. I just wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to watch it. I find these types of shows are really best enjoyed slowly and when you’re in the right type of mood.
But then Sony Entertainment changed all that. With their latest (I’m writing this in late March) undertaking of merging the Funimation library with Crunchyroll. Sonny Boy was and still is on Funimation, and as of the end of March, it has not been moved over to Crunchyroll. I have no idea if they are planning to do so but I hope so, as it would be too bad for Crunchy only viewers to miss out.
Also, side rant. I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed this but more or less as soon as they announced that they were phasing out FUNimation, the quality went down the drain. More precisely for me, it meant that it stopped working on Firefox and that shows began to start freezing all the time. I could get around it by switching to a ser resolution instead of auto. Even high resolutions worked fine. But it took me a couple of series before figuring it out and it was really annoying watching shows that would freeze a few times an episode. I have had Funimation for years and it never did that before. End of side rant.
So yeah..bring Sonny Boy to Crunchy, please.
Like I was saying, my plans for this show got a bit rushed due to outside circumstances but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.
I thought the beginning was great. I have seen a lot of reviews and articles calling Sonny Boy a sort of anime Lord of the Flies. Even I made the comparison at first. It’s in my notes. After all, for a while, the story follows a bunch of students on a desert island and how they naturally rearrange themselves in cliques and political structures. But Sonny Boy went a very different way with it.
First, there are supernatural elements in Sonny Boy and although that could have left the story generally unaffected, the way the show integrates those elements changes everything.
Some students, not all, develop powers. This already negates the need for violence in many ways. It’s simply not effective against someone that can teleport or control gravity. As such, musing on man’s basic brutal nature doesn’t work as well in this context. Sure, you could say they are just replacing physical strength with superpowers but all powers are different and can interact in surprising ways so it makes it a lot more complex. It’s difficult to truly see the moral. Is someone with the ability to bend space-time more powerful than someone that can predict the future, how about someone that can charm people? Though to tell.
Second, and more importantly, the worlds themselves have rules which are ultimate and force the students into behavioural patterns. The Island for instance destroys every material possession that a person gains without having made proper payment, thereby pretty much-imposing capitalism on the kids.
So rather than exploring man’s base nature when stripped of the confines of societal norms, Sonny Boy seems more interested in how we carry those norms with us and desperately cling to ritual and familiar structures even when they no longer serve any purpose.
If that sounds cool, it’s because it kind of is. And if it doesn’t, Sonny Boy is also a moody Sci-fyish supernatural mystery with a ton of surreal elements and symbolism. I really loved the first half of the series. Like, potential favourite anime love.
Obviously, I said first half so you know where this is going. Roughly around the mid-way mark, there’s a huge reveal. And it’s sort of amazing because any other series would have kept that for the end. It answers every question and explains exactly what has been happening. And in my opinion, that destroys the focus of the series. After that, the show becomes a lot more disjointed. Characters sort of drift into their own paths and it’s not really clear where this is all leading. It almost turns into a surreal Sci fish supernatural slice of life.
It’s not like it goes down the drain though. The second half is still good and there were certain individual episodes that were great in my opinion. But I personally got more invested in the drive and mystery of the first half. This is more a question of personal taste.
One thing I will fault Sonny Boy for is the lack of development in the characters. In part because of the very surreal nature of the storyline, most characters don’t really have any arcs. But even those that do, don’t change much or learn anything. Main character Nagara is pretty much the same in the last episode as in the first. We lose track of most of the characters from the beginning and those that get introduced later on really serve more as analogies than characters. The only person that seemed to evolve was Mizuho. And a lot of her progress seemed negated by the last episode as she was shown to regress back to her harsh antisocial ways.
Not all stories need their characters to progress. There are some fantastic static characters out there. And personally, the fact that the characters remained so steadfast while all the mystery elements were going on, before the reveal, actually added a lot to the series. It bent the universe and happenings to the characters rather than the other way around and that was narratively interesting.
But after that, when the series essentially becomes focused on Nagara’s journey, it gets a little frustrating to see him remain so utterly passive. Let’s face it, Nagara isn’t that exciting a guy, to begin with…
Despite these gripes, I would still recommend Sonny Boy, especially if you are in the mood for one of those surreal existential animes. It drops the ball in execution here and there but there are a lot of interesting moments and ideas to explore.
You might like this anime if:
You hate birds…
My favourite character:
a Tequila Sunrise (trust me)
- Every time there’s a Nyamazon package – Nyamazon!
- Every time we see a cat – take a tiny sip
- Every time we see a teacher – gasp!
- Every time Nozomi talks about the light – take a sip
- Every time a world gets torn part – oh my!
- Every time Nagara gets called useless – agree a little bit
- Every time Hoshi uses his power – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions “God” – take a sip
- Every time something bad happens to a bird – why?
- Every time Raj has a new toy – take a sip
- Every time anyone’s being a bummer – take a sip
- Every time there’s a new power holdover – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.