New Cutey Honey
Cosplay City has been almost completely taken over by criminal syndicates, and Mayor Light has had enough. Unfortunately for him, even he isn't safe from criminals, and just when all hope is lost, his meek secretary transforms into Cutey Honey, soldier for love and justice, and heroine of fanboys everywhere. (Oops. Inside voice, inside voice...) She uses the powers of her battle android body (i.e., super strength, skimpy clothing) to defeat the criminals who would destroy the city.
Yet another Go Nagai-based anime that common logic should dictate that THEM rate harshly - except that we actually enjoyed it immensely. Let's go into a few details first to analyze what went so differently here.
The original 1973 TV series Cutey Honey was, in fact, intended for a shoujo audience (a fact that will surprise many fans younger than the age of, oh, forty). This contention is supported by its inclusion in a late '90s Playstation game that featured all the magical girls from 1963 to 1983 (including Hana no Ko LunLun, Majokko Meg-chan, and many, many other more obviously shoujo anime.)
However, the nudie transformation sequences proved not exactly popular with parents, and many fanboys across the Pacific would get their kicks out of the original for years to come, albeit on fifteenth-generation VHS digital sources, where you couldn't really tell if Cutey Honey was transforming or not (or whether or not you were actually watching Captain Harlock).
Someone in the early 1990s apparently thought it would be a really good idea to resurrect Cutey Honey for modern consumption, complete with modern production values. By then, of course, Gainax Bounce had been perfected, so New Cutey Honey was soon to be released.
So, precisely who is this aimed at? You'd assume it's aimed at the male audience, for there's fan service (and nudity) galore. (Even the opening song has T & A written all over it!) Watch as Cutey Honey transforms from her normal skimpywear into, well, nothing, and then finishes up in an equally skimpy outfit, which is a caricature of some stereotype or other, or occasionally an outright parody of other anime characters. (One scene even has Cutey Honey strip teasing while dressed as Hououji Fuu from Rayearth. OUCH!) It's seemingly exploitative, it's incredibly sexist, and the female members of my household - you'd expect them to be indignant, but, no, they were laughing their butts off because it was so blatant, and yet Honey was actually never objectified in the whole series. Let's go more into detail on this.
Where does the shoujo angle come in here? Well, after the end of the show, we're (ahem) treated to live-action footage of a show in which people cosplayed (dressed in costume) as Cutey Honey and her various other forms. Watch carefully. The freebies are going to little girls! No, not teenagers, but three-to-nine-year-olds! In fact, the OAV series ends at episode 8 not because of a proper end to the second story arc (there is no resolution), but because Cutey Honey's impetus had shifted to the tamer, more outwardly girly Cutey Honey Flash, in which the same characters (albeit less wildly proportioned) do the exact same thing - nudie transformation, then destroying evil.
You know what, though? Upon reexamination, Cutey Honey actually makes sense as a shoujo series. Honey Kisaragi is an extremely strong character who is no damsel in distress. If anyone needs help in this series, it's the guys! And the protagonists (like the hilarious and handy Danpei) hold their own, though all of the action is thoroughly unbelievable, and sometimes quite silly. If you totally throw away the concept that this was intended to show the marketability of a skimpy female body, New Cutey Honey is a surprisingly decent series. There might be a lot of innuendo here, but sex? Devil Hunter Yohko is worse. Nudie transform sequences? Even Sailor Moon has them. So what's so different with New Cutey Honey that it's become part of every proper fanboy's library, but is so reviled by "elite" anime fans? Marketing.
The animation style is standard Go Nagai: awfully ugly backdrops, and weird-looking characters. Cutey Honey is the prettiest looking of the whole lot, naturally, and Gotoh Keiji (this seems to be one of his earlier works) tones down Go Nagai's character designs so they're not so deformed, which helps. The plot is superficially an excuse for all the mayhem to occur, but the first story arc is surprisingly well written and coherent, which is a step up from where you'd think this anime should be. The voice acting is properly over-the-top and unbelievable, but not so grating as to be unbearable (at least in Japanese, anyway).
I think the major problem here lies less with how the series was produced (it was actually done quite well), but with the whole mindset of the promoters of this series. I'm sorry, but when one of your villains has the upper torso of a naked eleven-year-old embedded in mecha (the whole naked prepubescent evil thing shows up in Cutey Honey Flash the Movie, too), with the mindset of a fiend, well, Houston, we have a problem. Still, it can be ignored, I guess. (My wife insists I'm full of it here.)
What are we supposed to say here? Is New Cutey Honey simply a guilty pleasure? Explain then, why the females in one all-THEM household (the majority, I should add) think this series is a hoot. What is it then, a parody, or a great classic anime masquerading as really good T & A? Well, I wouldn't say that much. It seems that Cutey Honey, as a creation, is actually trying to go beyond the perverted, ultra-violent reputation of its creator, Go Nagai, but can never fully shake off the taint no matter how hard it tries, especially considering how many of Nagai's male fans embraced this series so thoroughly.
Like Urushihara Satoshi's Plastic Little, though, New Cutey Honey is a victim of its own image. So many (predominantly male) fans perceive it as smut that it's hard to see what's really in there outside of the trash. The true message of this show, that, yes, sex can be a very powerful and positive aspect of the female existence, is so easily lost on the anime fandom audience that all that's left to say is, "Shut up, I can't hear the subtitles!"
Maybe it's time anime fans gave this show a second chance.
This show is, ironically, much better than most of the numerous other titles it has inspired. For mature audiences only, because anyone else might as well take it down a couple notches. Apparently, a lot of female fans I've talked to seem immune to all the hype and enjoy this quite a bit. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Not for kids whose societies think sex and violence are taboos. Maybe in Japan they think this is okay for little girls, but certain not in North America! Oodles of nudity, lots of violence (not quite as bad as Abashiri Family or Shuten Doji), and so much innuendo, you see why ADV sells this genre like hotcakes. The sensitive or conservative should steer well clear of this one, as one has to have the proper sense of cynicism and detachment to put this material in its place. Of course, it all depends on whether you consider all the naughty bits a distraction or a primary focus.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (8/8)
New Cutey Honey © 1994 Go Nagai / Dynamic Planning - Toei Video Co Ltd
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