Either I just flashbacked to the mid-nineties and watched Power Rangers or I just wondered what happened after 90 minutes…and why was I smiling…
What They Say
Popular manga comic CUTIE HONEY is brought to life. Honey is an office worker who hides a secret. Developed by her father, Honey has the ‘I System’ a necklace that allows her to transform into the super hero CUTIE HONEY. The evil Claw Gang attempt to steal the necklace and CUTIE HONEY must use all of her superpowers to save the world from hate.
With the setting only in Japanese, the MVM Release comes complete with a 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound track as well as a standard 2.0 stereo track. The audio is outstanding, bringing Cutie Honey to life with perfect surround and audio quality blasting through your speakers. No distortion when working the audio with the visual and with it being such a super-heroine film, it really blasts to life considering the musical interludes and the various action sequences of the movie. Very high quality.
The video, like the audio, has been mastered in wide screen and with so many visual effects in place; it again goes through your screen in very high quality. However, unfortunately there are a number of instances where the timing with the subtitles is off, and even there are no subtitles at all in a few instances (such as a couple of times between Aki and Honey) – considering there is no dub for this, I couldn’t obviously understand what Honey was saying so had to be marked down for that – however if you can get past the few instances of that, it’s still a quality release visually.
Can you say pink? The packaging of Cutey Honey immediately catching your eye from the shots of Honey in her battle suit attire, with a pink surrounding and the bold ‘Cutie Honey’ in pink with three shots of Honey in various poses. It’s definitely bright and eye-catching, with the back having shots of Honey, Sister Jill and the Claws with four small screenshots from the film, also showing the extras…again in bright pink. Eye-catching to say the least.
The menu opens up with a Honey flashback and background scenes with Honey over the Play Feature. Navigation over the menus is spot on and very easy to navigate from Menu to Set Up, with a details scene selection with shots from the movie to make it easy to know where you left off, and each menu bar one also has a shot from the movie introducing it before you make your selection (like with Aki shooting the screen). It all melts and combines in nicely yet at the same time easy to go through.
The extras for Cutie Honey are mostly simple – we have a set of trailers for the movie itself, with some teaser, theatrical and TV spots (4 for the movie and 2 backstage), we have 33 stills from the movie itself and a trailer for another live action movie Dororo.
The big extra though is a 20 minute documentary on the making of Cutie Honey. A lot of interesting info comes through – the fact that Evangelion director Hideaki Anno directed this being the first – and we get a nice mixture of brief interviews with pretty much all the main cast (even a cameo from Cutie Honey creator Go Nagai!), creation of the action sequences, the idea behind the ‘Honeymation’ technique used in the film, the transformation sequence and the music. It goes by very fast and a nice extra to have.
Live action versions of anime I’m always very sceptical about to say the least. So this version of the classic Cutie Honey was met with much trepidation despite the fact that Evangelion master Hideaki Anno was at the helm. Turns out that in a roundabout way this was one of the more enjoyable romps I got through…for both better and worse.
We are quickly introduced to Honey Kisaragi, a cute but scatterbrained young woman, who we quickly discover is not a normal girl, as she has the power to transform into a buxom super-heroine named Cutie Honey. She is quickly called into action to save her uncle from a group known as the Panther Claw, who Honey has a grudge against because they killed her father. The early battle with one of the evil minions Gold Claw is a cluster filled of explosions, over the top action sequences, and a combination of anime sequences from the original Cutie Honey with ‘Honeymation’ comic book art mixed in with live action movements from Honey. The battle concluded with Honey’s victory as the bad guys retreat – but not without some interference with the Chief Of Police, a serious young lady by the name of Natsuko Aki – and an intrepid reporter named Seiji Hayami, who seems to have followed Honey’s escapades for a while.
Cutting to Honey’s home life, she’s a bit of a ditz at work, and doesn’t appear to have many (If any) friends whilst Aki is under pressure because of several kidnappings of young women in the area. It’s soon obvious that the Panther Claw and these kidnappings are connected, and we soon meet (after a musical interlude) the head of Panther Claw, the resurrection of Sister Jill, a sage like being along with her four warriors, the aforementioned Gold Claw, the Catwoman like Cobalt Claw, the geisha like Scarlet Claw and the smirking androgynous Dark Claw. Each of them decides to try and impress Jill by capturing Honey, whose power the I System Jill is interested in.
It leads basically to a straight forward film where the Panther Claw organisation each try to kidnap Honey – with Aki and Seiji also butting in to find out what is going on about Honey. It leads to a battle with Cobalt Claw at Honey’s work place, Aki who is completely serious and by the book beginning to loosen up around Honey (leading to a hilarious karaoke sequence when Seiji invites them both round to showcase his research), an explosive battle with over the top action and acting from Scarlet Claw, and the battle with Dark Claw which is a combination of over the top special effects, campy musical introduction and background, and a surprisingly good choreographed battle on Tokyo Tower. The finale between Honey and Jill is fairly predictable with Aki and Seiji getting involved but it does had a moment or two of tension as a few of the plot points are explored involving Seiji.
It’s hard not to comment on the film without mentioning the unfortunate problems that comes with it. The CGI and special effects are both cheesy and over the top, as is a lot of the acting (ironically Eriko Sato who played Honey, is a professional swimsuit model, and was easily the best actor along with Mikako Ichikawa who played Aki) – it does have a camp feel like watching an episode of old-school Power Rangers, which is why some of the scenes when Honey is clad in a bra and panties after losing her energy maybe a bit uncomfortable if it was aimed for children (12 rating in UK). The film is full of obvious clichés (Honey battles minions 1 through 4 before facing against bad boss, has to deal with a choice between finishing the bad boss and saving her friend, possible friend being a traitor etc) and the outcome of the movie could not be more obvious.
However, that being said, it’s actually an enjoyable movie. It’s hard not to smile at it – Honey in particular is a likeable heroine, she’s energetic despite her co-workers always bad mouthing her, the cameos from veteran Japanese actors (and Cutey Honey creator Go Nagai) at least give a degree of interest to it – and it’s both intentionally and unintentionally comic – you’ll be laughing either with or at it. A few attempts to try and make the plot less obvious (like Seiji’s real reason for following Honey) is almost forgotten because of the comic value and the pointless musical interludes – Dark Claw’s entrance against Honey and his minions playing violins during the battle had me laughing so much I had to stop before I could concentrate on the battle – which to be fair was very well done. Bonus points as well for at least trying to do something a bit different with the ‘Honeymation’ technique – at various points during battle, Honey will meld into comic book style backgrounds and do poses to avoid and attack. Sadly, it doesn’t come off too well on the big screen, though the nods to the original Cutie Honey anime will be well received.
The film itself is quite poor if you are looking for a well meaning story. It’s predictable, clichéd, obvious and a lot of the acting and effects are too over the top – whether intentional or not I’m not sure but the finale product makes it seem like a B-Movie Hollywood project. However, it’s hard not to like Cutie Honey if you just take it for what it is, a fun, mind-numbing romp where you check your brain outside and just laugh. Whether at or with is up to you, but it’s worth at least a rent, if nothing else you will get a couple of good drinking game out of it.
Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Making Of Cutie Honey, Cutie Honey Trailers, Teaser, Theatrical + TV Spots, Movie Stills