STUDIO: Shout Factory
MSRP: $17.97
RUNNING TIME: 420 minutes
•  Exclusive CD Soundtrack
•  Music Videos Jukebox

The Pitch

Sonic The Hedgehog vs your children, sanity, the will of God, et al.

The Nutshell

Sonic, Sonia, and Manic are hedgehogs who seek to fulfill an ancient prophecy to be reunited with their mother and form a sacred council that will save the world from the yoke of Dr. Robotnik. Also, they’re a rock band.

Someday, the kids would ask where anime babies come from, and the Queen would have to tell them about that crazy night back in ’98 with Goku and Piccolo after the club. But not tonight. Not tonight.

The Lowdown

As I type this, the first genuinely good Sonic The Hedgehog video game in 15 years has been released. It’s not a perfect 10, but a wonderful little mea culpa for all Sega has done, and all that could and should have been after Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

I forgive you Sega. But you bet your crusty ass I don’t forget.

Logically, in harder times, a faster-than-light hedgehog would have no problems robbing a Jack-In-The-Box to get some food, but Sonic was a good hedgehog. And if honesty meant dumpster diving for a 6 month old Twinkie covered in a cat’s hairball, so be it.

Sonic Underground is the perfect balance to the joy I’ve had this week blazing through Sonic 4. This is Sonic’s public face for the double-aughts: Jaleel White abandoning Urkel for a hatecrime of the mind far worse than anything inflicted on the species during his 9 year quest to invade Laura Winslow with the bigger love of the family. He’s voiced Sonic for years, and only the slightly darker ABC cartoon from the 90s comes even close to a show that should be approached without a biohazard suit. In this iteration, White voices all three Hedgehogs: Sonic, his klepto brother Manic, and the sister Sonia through adventures trying to protect the world from Dr. Robotnik and his evil henchmen. Henchmen meaning a giant warthog who looks like Bebop and Rocksteady went Brokeback, and their godless spawn’s been hitting the P90X like a mother, and an anorexic dingo on two legs. These adventures are the typical DiC Entertainment staples: something gets stolen from (person, place, thing) which will help our heroes (fulfill a prophecy, destroy the bad guy, nape Vietnam, make a fall-apart-in-your-mouth Chicken French) and it’s up to our them to get it back before it’s too late. This formula isn’t a bad one by itself for innocuous children’s programming, but it too often results in a show rooted in laziness that isn’t even sound or fury signifying nothing. That would imply the action’s at least fun. It’s just a mess signifying that we could care less about who’s watching, HERE’SACARTHATLOOKSLIKEAGODDAMNSCORPIONANDYOUWANTTHISSHITDONTYOUCONSUMERLARVA$26.95PLEASE.

While many of the show’s lessons were contrived, the very special episode where the gang spoke about the dangers of leprosy remains a strong piece of work.

Here’s the problem, and really, the problem that has plagued all things Sonic since about 1995: What exactly was wrong with just having a little blue animal that runs fast snarkily crack wise once in a while and destroy some creatively designed robots while his fatass white oppressor growls something about getting that pesky porcupine once and for all? Did we really need sidekicks, dopey henchmen, fantasy mysticism, or poppy music numbers designed to teach kids an important lesson about not stealing, making new friends, how fun it is being a kid, avoiding the herpes, etc? Answer: No, but that’s exactly what the franchise became and this cartoon is. Sonic effortlessly got to 1995 as the “cool” alternative to Mario. He went into the 2000s a nasal-sounding asshole with poor choices in friends, having listened to one Dir En Grey album too many, and this is the cartoon that ushered him in. It’s painful to watch, but your average kid could give a damn. It’s colorful, and talks on a four-year old level. They’re more focused on their 8th bowl of Trix than what crystal’s been stolen from Knuckles the Kid-Friendly Yautjia, and this is the audience Sega’s been trying, successfully, to pander to.

This cartoon came along around the point when most of us were getting geared up for Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. Sega was trying to keep the little blue bitchball relevant while they figured out what the hell to do with the property, and this turned out to be the niche that worked. Hideous attempts at dated cool, coupled with a can-do Say No To Drugs attitude. All while the games got farther and farther from polished level design and simple spark and charm.

Never forget, Sega. Stray from this.

“You know what I love about Hedgehog chicks? They give great Spin Dash. Echidna broads don’t know nothin’ about Spin Dash. I dunno why. Maybe it’s got to do with some ancient tribal custom.”

The Bonuses

The only bonus on each disc is a collection of all the songs from each episode designed to play one after the other in a neverending kaleidoscope of pain, forever. It also includes an 8 song CD with these songs and a few extras involved. I kept looking for the “Property of Guantanamo Bay” stamp, but the U.S. Government can be goddamn thorough when it needs to be.

3.0 out of 10