Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cutie Honey

Cutie Honey; animated fantasy action comedy series, Japan, 1973; D: Tomoharu Katsumata, S: Eiko Masuyama, Katsuji Mori, Kazuko Sawada, Kousei Tomita, Noriko Watanabe

Honey Kisaragi is a mischievous and bored teenage girl who is attending an all-girls Catholic academy. This changes, however, when an evil organization known as Panther Claw, led by Sister Jill and Zora, kills her father, a scientist. His hologram informs Honey that she is an android and that she has a special element manipulation device which can transform her into a superheroine, Cutey Honey, and also disguise her into any costume. Teaming up with reporter Seiji, his little brother and father, Honey battles the forces of the Panther Claw that want to get her device in order to conjure up various jewels and diamonds for themselves. Honey kills Jill in her castle, but Zora is still out there.

Go Nagai's early manga adaptation, "Cutey Honey" is a an example of anime exploitation genre featuring a wide array of action and thrills to appeal to the mass audience, yet it quite unexpectedly changed the anime landscape thanks to two trendsetting features that tapped into the unexplored territory: for one, it became a forerunner to the mega-popular 'magical girl' genre (its influence is more than apparent on "Sailor Moon"— among other things, Honey transforms into a superheroine while naked for a few seconds, whereas she also calls herself: "Ai no senshi"), and secondly, it established the Bakunyu genre in anime, since it dwells on Nagai's fascination with giant breasts (almost every female character has them, including the demon-women, one of which is even called "Breast-Claw"), proving that he is an "anime R. Meyer". Even though it was allegedly toned down compared to his manga series, "Cutey Honey" is incredibly grotesque at times, especially in the first 12 episodes, listing several bizarre gags (Honey's teacher, Ms. Alphonne, has a small moustache on her lip; a little girl princess has a mucus drop hanging from her nose the entire episode; in episode 8, a black panther assaults a museum at night, and one security guard pees into his pants from fear, while later the panther swings its paw so fiercely that it rips Honey's robe revealing her naked butt — even though she was disguised as a nun in the temple!) as well as crude writing, obvious in a couple of violent moments (in one scene, Cutie Honey even uses an axe to chop off the heads of the panther Claw thugs - though the thugs are always depicted as "vanishing" after being hit, implying that they are not conventional beings out of flesh and blood).

The majority of the storyline is basically all of the same—Cutey Honey battling the Panther Claw gang who either want to steal jewels or her element transformation device—with very little to offer some versatile touch, not even in character development (for instance, the only thing we find out about Seiji and his little brother is that they love Honey. That is pretty much their only feature), though the story is a 'guilty pleasure' and is pretty darn fun. Honey transforms into various alter egos, from a racer, a singer, and once even into Chaplin. The best episodes are #9 and #13, since the latter actually sets up a rather clever concept that inventively exploits Honey's transformation ability: she transforms into a Panther Claw thug (!) and thus joins the other criminals, driving their car and sending it down the cliff with them before she escapes. It also for the first time gives the story an emotional dimension: when Seiji, his brother and father discover that Honey is actually an android, she runs away from shame and cries, but they comfort her by saying that everything is all right. It would have been nice if the authors exploited more of those dramatic potentials, and delivered more such richer episodes, instead of focusing only on action. Mischievous and naughty, but at the same time honest and nice at times, "Cutey Honey" is the darnedest thing: it displays rudimentary writing — "Sailor Moon" was honest about the 'magical girl' genre, while "Cutey Honey" is pure fan service — and was even topped by the better remake "Cutey Honey Flash" released 23 years later, yet its essence proved to be absolutely indispensable for future anime, and thus must be recognized, regardless of its omissions.


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