Super Sonico, the mascot character for games company Nitroplus (famous for visual novels like Steins;Gate) has always been nothing more than a very fan-service oriented mascot character. She the centrepiece of hundreds of pieces of art and doujinshi and has a whole army of figures based on her, generally in some form of swimwear (including a colossal ½ scale figure!) What she’s never really had though has been much of a story or character beyond what’s implied through a few CDs and her artwork, so how on Earth do you go about turning her into the lead character of an anime?
Super Sonico (yes that is her actual name in the series – her parents must have had a bit of a misunderstanding about how the whole choosing a name thing goes) is a bit of a miracle frankly. At 18 she’s a college student (and apparently a bit of a high-flyer too), a gravure idol, a waitress and the lead guitarist of her band First Cosmic Velocity along with her friends Suzu and Fuuri, who jump onboard from Nitroplus eroge Axanael. That’s all before we mention the five cats (whom, from their placid good nature, we can only assume are on the catnip). How she manages to keep everything straight and maintain her calm-good nature is astounding! But she somehow manages just that, perhaps thanks to her legion of friends (no-one is a true bad guy here – at most there’s a slightly dodgy desire to have her wear revealing clothes from a few people she encounters) and also her manager, Mr Kitamura, who for no apparent reason other than for pure awesomeness wears a full-head demon mask and carries a sword down his back!
In terms of plot there isn’t really much to speak of beyond "Sonico does something and is cute doing it". It’s not much, but then expecting something totally out of the box like iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia would perhaps be asking a bit much - then again, a touch of that Nitroplus magic that went into Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes wouldn’t be unwelcome. So, for our first three episodes we watch Sonico prepare for and perform a live concert (which for some unknown reason involves a melting costume) and go to a couple of modelling gigs. It’s not something that’s going to break any boundaries, but at the same time it’s certainly pretty fun to watch and let the gentle comedy wash over you with the occasional piece of hilarity generally involving someone being terrified of Kitamura. It’s not quite slice-of-life but it certainly veers in that general direction.
What is surprising about the series (particularly given what inspired it) is how minor a role fan-service plays in the series. Yes she’s in a swimsuit on occasion but that doesn’t really count too much these days, and there’s nary a panty shot to be found - everything is just played for the gentle humour aspect. Perhaps this, like the rather shockingly good quality of the animation, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when you realise that White Fox is behind the series' production. They’ve worked with Nitroplus before on Steins;Gate, as well as series like Tears to Tiara and The Devil is a Part-Timer. This is all for the better as, by keeping the quality up and not descending into a lazy fan-service fest, it ensures the series is that bit more engaging and makes the characters more likeable.
Whilst I was someone who’d have been first in line to throw Soni-Ani to the wolves, I have to say that it’s won me over. Whilst I’d disagree with comments buzzing around that the series is K-ON-esque (it’s nowhere near that good...) which seem to have come from no other reason than some similar plot lines to the K-ON! College manga, it does have a sense of that similar charm coming through. Whilst we shouldn’t kid ourselves and realise that Soni-Ani isn’t going to be a hugely memorable show - in all probability will have been utterly forgotten by this time next year - you won’t regret the time spent with Super Sonico and pals. Like me, the only question you’ll have is.... is that really her name?
You can currently watch Soni-Ani in streaming form via Crunchyroll.