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Sunny Review: Robot-Fueled Comedy Thriller Surpasses Expectations

Sunny Review: Robot-Fueled Comedy Thriller Surpasses Expectations

On paper, Sunny might seem like another addition to the lackluster summer TV lineup. The powers that be often assume we spend summer outdoors, prompting a lesser effort in entertainment offerings. What a naive assumption! These are probably the same folks who think a “hearty salad” suffices for a summer meal, not recognizing that we need substantial meals year-round.

A quick glance at Sunny’s premise might not instill much hope: a grief-stricken woman in near-future Japan teams up with a robot to uncover the mystery behind her son and husband’s disappearance in a seemingly fatal plane crash. However, Sunny defies these low expectations and delivers a thoroughly engaging story instead.

The show begins with a bang—literally—featuring blood splattering across an orange wall as a robot annihilates the humans in the room. We are then introduced to Rashida Jones as Suzie Sakamoto, an American expatriate who relocated to Japan to heal from past wounds. Instead of living a solitary life, she meets the charming and gentle Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima). They marry and have a son, Zen.

A flashback to a unique silent restaurant in Japan reveals the couple’s quaint meet-cute. This setting, symbolic of the show’s unique mix of genres and its ability to keep viewers on their toes, never becomes too over-the-top to induce eye rolls.

After Masa and Zen’s disappearance, Yuki, a senior colleague from the tech firm where Masa worked, brings Suzie a “homebot” named Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura) as a condolence gift. This isn’t just any homebot; Yuki reveals that Masa specifically programmed Sunny for Suzie, casting doubt on Masa’s supposed profession as a refrigeration engineer.

Suzie, a known technophobe, slowly warms up to Sunny, despite her initial reservations. “A robot killed my mother,” she tells an official. Her mother-in-law, Noriko (Judy Ongg), retorts, “It was a self-driving car. Human error was named as the cause.” Noriko plays a larger part in the story but excels at delivering sharp, caustic remarks.

In addition to the show’s comedic and sci-fi elements, Sunny also introduces a conspiracy thriller aspect. Suzie uncovers puzzling details about Masa’s life and disappearance. At an office party she grudgingly attends, she meets an underling of Masa who speaks of her mild-mannered husband with surprising reverence. While exploring a back stairwell, she discovers rooms marked “Sakamoto Incubator,” one stained with blood and the orange carpet from earlier.

Sunny exudes a confident tone throughout the series. It paces itself leisurely—perhaps a bit too leisurely for some—but it masterfully navigates various themes without faltering. The show delves into the apparent impossibility of truly knowing another person, touching on themes of grief and loneliness. Masa was formerly a hikikomori, a social recluse, and he and Suzie connect over their mutual appreciation for solitude.

The show further explores contemporary issues, such as the dual potentials of AI. Amidst all the intricate plotting and discovery essential for a compelling conspiracy thriller, it’s a cocktail bar meeting with a waitress named Mixxy (played by Annie the Clumsy) that propels Suzie and Sunny deeper into the web of bot-hacking, involving them further in the mystery of the plane crash and other suspicious deaths. Surveilled by shadowy figures and attracting the criminal underworld’s attention, led by a menacing platinum blond psychopath named Hime (the actor You), Suzie’s journey weaves through intense and perilous encounters.

Despite its multifaceted plot, Sunny remains tightly controlled and coherent. Designed to satiate the yearning for more Severance-like content while we await its next season, it stands firmly on its own merits—an exceptional piece of storytelling.

Source: Guardian