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Cutie Honey
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |








Notes:
• Koda Miku performs the title theme, "Cutie Honey, Sweet Fighter."

Availability:

DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
VAP
Regular Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1

DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
VAP
2-Disc Limited Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Various Extras

DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
VAP
The Making of Cutie Honey
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Trailers and Teasers

 
Year: 2004
Director: Hideaki Anno
Cast: Eriko Sato, Jun Murakami, Mikako Ichikawa, Eisuke Sakai, Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Sie Kohinata, Hairi Katagiri, Mayumi Shintani, Masaki Kyomoto, Ryuhei Matsuda, Toru Tezuka, Hideko Yoshida, Go Nagai (cameo)
The Skinny: This live-action update of Go Nagai's animated series is nothing less than the cinematic embodiment of "fan service." Although the film's style over substance credo might irritate some, Cutie Honey possesses enough infectious charm and whizbang theatrics to satisfy even the most jaded viewer. Maybe.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Hideaki Anno's live-action adaptation of Go Nagai's 1973 anime Cutey Honey is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. For every single thing a fan could put forth as a justification for liking the movie, a detractor could probably view that same "quality" as ample reason for hating the film. Fortunately for me, I fall into the far happier, former group. One good thing about Cutie Honey is that from the get-go, you'll have a pretty clear idea of whether you're going to like it or not.
     The film begins with the nubile Honey Kisaragi (newcomer Eriko Sato) merrily bathing in a tub filled with strategically placed bubbles sure to frustrate the more hormonally-charged members of the audience. Upon learning that her scientist uncle has been kidnapped, Honey promptly hops out of the tub, strikes a pose, and yells out her signature catchphrase, "Honey flash!"—a move that's supposed to signal her transformation into Cutie Honey, a pink haired Wonder Woman-esque superheroine.
     But when Honey touches the heart-shaped Ai-system device attached to her collar, nothing happens. Realizing she's low on energy, Honey does what any normal young girl caught in such a situation would do: she runs out of the house dressed in nothing more than a bra, panties, and a midriff-covering garbage bag and sprints through the streets of Japan in search of her neighborhood grocery store. Makes sense, right? After loading up on water and onigiri to power herself up, Honey rips off the garbage bag (to give the boys in the audience a little show, I imagine) and transforms, suddenly landing on a motorcycle (where'd that come from?) in full racer regalia (how did she do that? Don't ask). Does that give you a sense of what kind of picture we're dealing with here?
     Back to the story: somehow intuitively aware of her uncle's location, Honey races to save him from the clutches of Gold Claw (Hairi Katagiri), a Kabuki-faced, gold encrusted amalgamation of a samurai, a Roman solider, and Marvel Comics superhero Wolverine. When Honey arrives on the scene, the tough-as-nails Detective Aki Natsuko (Mikako Ichikawa) and an armada of cops are trying to negotiate with Gold Claw and his minions—with little success. In the meantime, our heroine dons a series of disguises and saves both Natsuko and Uncle Utsugi before finally revealing herself to all as the sword-wielding "Warrior of Love, Cutie Honey!" Cue stylized anime credit sequence, complete with theme song. And that's just the first ten minutes, folks.
     As one might expect, the films centers on Honey, who while not fighting crime, holds a day job at an office building. Although plucky and perky as ever, Honey's behavior tends to alienate most of her coworkers, and her propensity for being late certainly hasn't won her many fans in the office either. Clark Kent never had it so bad.
     Honey soon learns that the evil Gold Claw belongs to a secret organization called Panther Claw, composed of a legion of minions and several "sub-bosses," namely the not-so creatively christened Black Claw, Cobalt Claw, and Scarlet Claw. Although played mainly for laughs, Gold Claw's comrades-in-arms are more than a little creepy, especially the fanged, S&M freak Cobalt Claw. All of these monsters bow to the evil Sister Jill, the "Eternal Queen of Darkness" (Eisuke Sakai). In addition to a host of faithful supporters, Sister Jill even comes complete with her own woefully embarrassing English language theme song!
     Weird musical choices aside, Sister Jill has a lot in common with Sauron from Lord of the Rings—specifically, she hasn't achieved her complete form. Thus, Sister Jill has been feasting on the life force of thousands of abducted women in the quest for attaining eternal life. When Sister Jill learns of Cutie Honey's Ai-system, she sees it as a prime opportunity to achieve immortality. This leads to a confrontation with Honey, but thankfully, our heroine doesn't have to go it alone, calling on the help of the formerly antagonistic Detective Natsuko and the super-cool spy Seiji Hayami (Jun Murakami) to help her during the climactic, battle high atop Tokyo Tower.
     "Fun" is the operative word to describe Cutie Honey. The film is innocuous, bubblegum pop to be sure, but unlike cinematic deadwood like Twins Effect II, it actually delivers. Cutie Honey has so much momentum that it almost always seems to be moving—even when technically it's not. The director's decision to mishmash contemporary CGI with old fashioned animation techniques hits the right tone from the very start. There's a definite stylishness to the proceedings that can be admired in and of itself.
     The filmmakers seem completely aware of what kind of movie Cutie Honey should be and seem unabashedly committed to making it. After all, this is the kind of movie where, without warning, a villain will suddenly break out into song or where our heroine wears hilariously unconvincing disguises that even Ray Charles could see through, but no one even notices it's Honey incognito. And let's not forget all the "fan service" shots of Eriko Sato's posterior. Although I feel slightly shameful in reporting this so gleefully, Sato is scantily clad for most of the picture, with her character spending most of her free time doing such natural things as bending over and doing the splits while dressed only in bra and panties. But it's all done with just enough gee whiz innocence to make you feel that it's all in a good fun.
     Style, tone, and "fan service" issues aside, much of the burden of Cutie Honey's success or failure falls on the shoulders of first-time actress Eriko Sato. For some, her performance might come across as too cloying, if not downright irritating. But for viewers like myself, Sato is a dream girl come to life. Although one would be hard pressed to call it "acting," Sato's actions and reactions seem spot-on for what the film tries to be: a straight ahead adaptation of beloved Japanese anime. In many instances, Sato's behavior jibes perfectly with someone who's supposed to have stepped right out of an anime and onto the big screen.
     Mikako Ichikawa does a fine job as the hard-ass Natsuko and serves as a perfect foil to Sato's bubbly radiance. To see her character's icy demeanor melt as the film progresses is a nice little bonus (as are the end credit outtakes in which the perpetually frowning character finally smiles and even laughs). Jun Murakami rounds out the trio, and does well in what little the film's plot allows for him. Best of all, the three actors share a short, but hilarious drunken karaoke scene that's almost worth the price of admission.
     But even with my praise, it would be incorrect to imply that the film doesn't make any missteps. The chief offender would have to be the "sad montage" that occurs midway through the film, as a depressed Honey wanders around Tokyo trying to figure out the meaning of life while wearing gaudy outfits and looking totally bummed out. Although the impetus behind the scene was perhaps necessary to give the film some dramatic tension, the tonal shift feels too abrupt considering what came before, and effectively brings the film to a screeching halt. Overall, there seems to be a push to give the film more depth, a desire that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
     Cutie Honey achieves a level of poignancy that's remarkable considering its fluffy exterior, but the film does get a little too maudlin at the end. Making friendship and L-O-V-E the cure-all to all the film's conflicts is expected and probably a little too cheesy. Still, the whizbang eye candy frivolity that typifies the majority of the film more than makes up for any minor faults it possesses. At the very least, Cutie Honey tries to be more meaningful than it has any right to be, and does it somewhat successfully without sacrificing the film's ultimate purpose.
     But still, as I compliment Cutie Honey and even make excuses for its deficiencies, it's important to make a few things clear. Do I think Cutie Honey is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema? No. Do I think some viewers will find the movie both dumb and annoying? You bet. But even as I make those admissions, I also have to assert that in the humble opinion of this warm-blooded heterosexual male, Cutie Honey possesses just enough bells and whistles and possibly heart to dazzle just about anyone—more specifically, anyone who likes Cutie Honey's particular brand of bubblegum anime. You know who you are. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

 
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