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Sunny Review: Apple TV+'s Dark Comedy Is a Unique and Stylish Take on Our Fears About AI

Rashida Jones stars in the mystery thriller featuring cute robots who might be metal murderers

Keith Phipps
Rashida Jones and Hidetoshi Nishijima, Sunny

Rashida Jones and Hidetoshi Nishijima, Sunny

Apple TV+

Given that we live in a time of seemingly endless conflict, potentially nation-transforming elections, extreme weather, mass shootings, and other woes, it's actually pretty impressive how much anxiety artificial intelligence has created. Recent breakthroughs have made AI ubiquitous, sometimes as a mere buzzword, but other times as legitimately game-changing technological advances. These will ultimately revolutionize our work and private lives, make entire professions obsolete, or destroy humanity, depending on who you ask. That the new Apple TV+ series Sunny opens with a robot killing a man with a metal stool suggests it will fall firmly on the "destroy humanity" side of the spectrum, but it doesn't take long to realize it will be adopting a more nuanced position. Sweet (or maybe just seemingly sweet) robots with big, expressive anime eyes, and easily wounded feelings can be disarming that way.

Adapted from Irish author Colin O'Sullivan's 2018 novel The Dark Manual, Sunny stars Rashida Jones as Suzie Sakamoto, an American who, years before the primary timeline of the series, relocated to Kyoto in hopes of a fresh start. She found one, too, marrying an engineer named Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima) with whom she's raising a son named Zen. But as Sunny begins it seems like the happy life they've forged together has reached an end. It's shortly before Christmas and Masa and Zen have both disappeared, apparently joining the casualties of an airline crash. That leaves a stupefied Suzie left alone with her difficult mother-in-law Noriko (Judy Ongg) to deal with the authorities, the airline, and ImaTech, the company for whom Masa worked in the refrigerator division — or so Suzie's been led to believe.




  • Clever concept
  • Strong performances (human and otherwise)
  • Format-breaking episodes change things up


  • The plotting can feel a bit slack from time to time

Suzie has her doubts about the official story, doubts that only deepen upon the unexpected appearance at her home of an older man named Yuki (Jun Kunimura) who claims to have worked with Masa and comes bearing a gift: a state-of-the-art ImaTech homebot named Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura) whose bubbly personality can't quite cut through Suzie's distrust of robots or her desire to be alone in her grief. But when Sunny gives indications that she knows things about Suzie only Masa could have known, she takes an interest in her new addition. Maybe her husband didn't specialize in refrigerators after all?

Created by Katie Robbins (The Affair), Sunny takes place in a near-future Japan given a 1960s-inspired sheen, from its retrofuturistic phones to a soundtrack filled with songs and film score music from the era. (The stylish opening titles play out to the accompaniment of a song by '60s/'70s sex symbol Mari Atsumi and fans of the cult classic Tokyo Drifter will hear some familiar themes.) Suzie and other robots are all charmingly clunky and space age in appearance, as if robotics design had jumped from the year 1966 directly to the present (or a few years out). While uncovering the past as she attempts to get to the bottom of the show's central mystery, Suzie has to navigate a world filled with Yakuza and cocktail bars but also underground robot fighting competitions and earpieces that provide instant translation. (That Suzie has yet to learn Japanese is one of several points of contention between her and Noriko.)

In tone it sometimes resembles The Flight Attendant, another darkly comic literary adaptation in which a rough-around-the-edges protagonist has to find her way through a suddenly dangerous and mysterious world. Jones plays Suzie as weary, distrustful, and adrift, qualities that make sense for a character going through a profound and shocking loss. They make a stark contrast to the ebullient but not entirely reliable Sunny, whose programming doesn't always match what seem to be her good intentions. The question of what happened to Matsu and Zen and why serve as Sunny's driving force, but the series is often just as interested in what makes Sunny tick, particularly in the season's clever and moving penultimate episode (whose unusual form is best left unspoiled).

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For all the drama of Suzie's situation, most episodes of Sunny move at a fairly leisurely pace. Though this makes the series lag in spots, it also allows more room for supporting characters like Mixxy (charmingly played by musician and YouTube personality annie the clumsy in her acting debut), a mixologist who gets wrapped up in Suzie's quest and becomes, by all appearances, her only friend. The approach also allows room for format-breaking installments like a flashback that serves as Masa's origin story and an exploration of Hikikomori, the modern-day recluses that have become a sub-class of the population in Japan and Korea. 

If Sunny sometimes lacks urgency, it's also never predictable, and the sometimes difficult relationships between Suzie, Mixxy, and Sunny (who quickly emerges as a three dimensional character) give it a dramatic heft that fits nicely beside the elements of mystery and comedy. (Ongg provides a lot of highlights on the latter front, particularly once her character engineers to be sent to a women's jail in hopes of investigating her son's disappearance.) Whether or not Sunny has enough story to stretch over multiple seasons remains to be seen, but this first one serves as a promising beginning, and its unsure take on AI — depicted in turn as murderous, companionable, life-affirming, unreliable, and goofy — feels made for the times.

Premieres: The first two episodes premiere on Apple TV+ on July 10, with subsequent episodes airing weekly
Who's in it: Rashida Jones, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Joanna Sotomura, Judy Ongg, YOU, annie the clumsy, and Jun Kunimura
Who's behind it: Katie Robbins (The Affair)
For fans of: Black Mirror, Dark comedies, sci-fi mysteries, robots
How many episodes we watched: 10 of 10