Sunny TV Review

Rashida Jones and A24 team for the latest dark genre offering from AppleTV+ that proves it is the most creative streaming platform out there.

Sunny review

Plot: Set in Japan, the series follows Suzie who recently lost her husband and son in a mysterious plane crash. As consolation, her husband’s company gives Suzie a robotic home assistant with a sunny disposition–aptly named Sunny. A begrudging relationship forms between the two as they set out to figure out what really happened to Suzie’s family.

Review: Love or fear them; robots have been a part of popular culture for over a century. As technology develops, so do the various interpretations of sentient machines. From Metropolis and Star Wars to M3GAN and Optimus Prime, robots are interpreted as everything from comic relief to villainous killers bent on the destruction of mankind. The new AppleTV+ series Sunny takes a darkly funny look at the potential balance between love and hate for robots in a great example of mature storytelling combined with an original take on a timeless genre. Led by Rashida Jones and a predominantly Japanese cast, Sunny is a wonderfully touching series that introduces a new robot design that will likely become the 2024 equivalent of Baby Yoda. Sunny is another example of why AppleTV+ maintains the bar by which all other streaming platforms should compare themselves.

Sunny opens with a vague splash of violence at the hands of a sentient machine before transitioning to a colorful opening title sequence with a catchy Japanese tune. The dichotomy of violence and music continues through the ten-episode first season of Sunny, which boasts a soundtrack that will likely convert a lot of viewers into fans of retro Japanese tracks they never heard before. The series opens with Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones) and her mother-in-law Noriko (Judy Ongg) alongside the family and next of kin for a crashed flight. Suzie’s husband, Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), and their son were on that flight. Struck by grief, Suzie still maintains a foul mouth of creative profanity as she begins to drink heavily. But, when she arrives home, she finds Yuki Tanaka (Jun Kunimura), a roboticist friend of Masa. Yuki drops off a custom-made robot made by Masa for Suzie. The robot is named Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura). Reluctant to have a robot because of her mother’s death, Suzie keeps a distance from Sunny until she begins to realize the machine may hold clues to finding out more about Masa, who may not be dead.

As the series progresses, Suzie and Sunny form a deep bond as Suzie reflects on how she met Masa and fell in love. Each episode, running slightly over half an hour, presents the human and machine assistant as unlikely friends. Thanks to Rashida Jones’ unwavering dedication to playing Suzie as emotionally bruised beneath a sarcastic exterior, the chemistry between the actress and her robot scene partner never plays as artificial. Joanna Sotomura’s sunny voicework for her namesake character makes the robot immediately compelling and fun to watch. Seeing them team up to try and solve the mystery at the center of this series brings humor and emotional range to every scene. That is a tough order as Sunny has a surreal streak running through it as the story presents a near-future Japan full of cute robots and technology like earbuds that serve as instant language translators. Japan’s whimsical technology industry adds a dash of realism to the machines in this story, which I want to own personally. That is, until the dark underbelly of what this story is about comes out.

Sunny review

Suzie and Sunny have support from Yuki as well as Sunny’s friend and aspiring mixologist Mixxy (Youtuber Annie the Clumsy) as they go up against the Yakuza, who have nefarious plans for Sunny and the secret Masa was working on. While the Yakuza look like the expected gangsters we have seen countless times on film and television, they are led by Hime (You), who has aspirations beyond gender norms. A female Yakuza leader is not unheard of, but the approach to this character may be one of the best put to screen. You portrays Hime as a powerful antagonist whose true motivations are never hidden. I watched all ten episodes of Sunny‘s first season with expectations for what would come next from these characters, and every plot direction kept me on my toes. If you think you know where Sunny is going from one chapter to the next, I can assure you that you don’t know what is coming your way.

Created by Katie Robbins (The Affair, The Last Tycoon), Sunny is based on the novel The Dark Manual by Colin O’Sullivan. The title change is apt as this series really is about the robot and her relationship with Suzie. The series delves into heavy emotional territory offset by a pitch-black sense of humor that evolves into something much more positive as the season gains momentum. Robbins scripted three of the ten episodes this season alongside a writing team that includes Nancy Won, Kimi Howl Lee, Julissa Castillo, Aja Gabel, Ken Kobayashi, Sarah Sutherland, and Yugo Nakamura. Directing duties fell to Lucy Tcherniak, Colin Bucksey, Dearbhla Walsh, and Makoto Nagahisa. If most of those names do not ring a bell, I would anticipate they will all become much more familiar after this series debuts. Filmed in Japan, Sunny’s production design is eclectic and unique, giving us robot designs rooted in familiar technology that exists today but taken to the next step. This science fiction is so close to reality that it made me want to see if these items could exist. The closeness to reality helps the story feel relatable, a key strength Sunny has over many genre offerings.

Sunny comes from A24 and Apple, so the title robot looks like an iPhone designed by Ari Aster. If you are not a fan of the A24 style, Sunny will surprise you as it fleshes out what could have been a concept that overstayed its welcome from the first episode, but this series continues to grow on you with each episode. By keeping the running time of each chapter short, audiences will be more willing to invest in this story, which I predict will be as popular as Severance was a few years ago. Sunny has everything a great series needs: original designs, likable characters, despicable villains, great music, and a great lead in Rashida Jones. When I thought I knew what to expect from Sunny, the series pulled the rug out from under me. This series sticks the landing and sets up what will most likely be a great second season and beyond. I hope audiences give this a chance, as Sunny is easily one of the year’s best shows.

Sunny premieres on July 10th on AppleTV+





About the Author

5925 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.