Sunday, October 24, 2010

Manga Review: Cutey Honey volumes 1-2

My reaction to finishing Nagai Go's classic Cutey Honey:
o_o ... o__O

The real review-

Cutey Honey is about Kisaragi Honey, an android created by Dr. Kisaragi to be his daughter.

After transferring to a yuri acid trip of a girls' school, charming her entire class,

and quickly making friends with amorous classmate/roommate Aki Natsuko,

Honey hears Dr. Kisaragi calling for help via a transceiver in her earring and immediately goes to his lab, which is being ransacked by members of the international crime organization Panther Claw.

After finding out she's an android, killing the burglars,

and seeing Dr. Kisaragi die, Honey learns from a recording of Dr. Kisaragi's voice that she has special technology inside of her that can "create matter out of air" and which allows her to transform into the redheaded super-crime fighter Cutey Honey when she presses the heart on her choker and yells "Honey Flash!"

Panther Claw, naturally, wants that technology and Honey wants revenge. At the lab, she also meets a doofus-y reporter named Hayami Seiji, who she befriends. (And later, Seiji's clingy little brother Junpei and pervy father  Danbei who I wanted to spray with insect repellent to make them go away.)

Other players include Honey's rather hideous homeroom teacher Alfone-sensei (who has the hots for Honey and is in a relationship with principal Pochi), sadistic dorm mistress Histora (who Honey has to evade when sneaking into and out of her dorm at night), the freakiest all-girl gang ever to grace the pages of a manga, and the mutants in Panther Claw, the most important of whom after their reclusive leader, Panther Zora, is the head of their Japanese branch, Sister Jill.

After luring Honey out with another burglary, Panther Claw captures Seiji, disguises one of their own as him, and manages to find out where Honey's school is. This does not bode well.

Everyone dies. Honey disguises Natsuko as a rock to save her from Panther Claw but doesn't have enough energy to disguise herself. When Panther Claw comes very close to where Honey's hiding, Natsuko bursts out of her disguise and pretends to be Honey running away. Dragon Claw burns her to a crisp, which pisses off Sister Jill, because the entire point was to capture Honey for her technology, not to destroy her. Sister Jill kills Dragon Claw and, convinced that Honey's dead, the Panther Claw members leave.

At Panther Claw's next planned burglary of a gold Buddhist statue, Honey makes herself look like the statue and takes its place before Panther Claw steals it (which isn't all that hard considering what the police in this story are like)

so she can infiltrate their hide-out. There, she fights Sister Jill

(after Jill's kind of hilarious reaction to Honey trying to transform) and kills her. Honey walks out of Panther Claw's castle, which Panther Zora blows up while crowing, "You'll fight me next, Honey!" And Honey swears to keep fighting until Panther Claw is completely destroyed- serving as a good segue for the two Cutey Honey TV anime series (one shounen, one shoujo, both more tame than the manga), OVAs (both seinen), a live-action TV series, a live-action movie, and numerous manga reboots in which Honey, once again, faces off against Panther Claw.

Honey is one of Nagai Go's most perennially popular creations. He is responsible for introducing some of the most ubiquitous tropes found in anime and manga (like mechs controlled by pilots in Mazinger Z), and his work is known for being loaded with nudity and violence. (His work even got him in trouble with PTAs back in the day, especially his series Harenchi Gakuen, which was the first "ecchi school" series.) However you feel about Nagai's oeuvre, you have to credit the man for knowing what sells.

While the first magical girl series was Mahou Tsukai Sally in 1966, Cutey Honey, which ran in Shounen Champion in 1973-1974 (the anime aired concurrently), introduced a major characteristic of the genre- a heroine who uses an accessory to transform and fight against baddies. Sailor Moon went further in introducing the concept to shoujo (hence, removing the seedy T & A- Honey's transformation is called "Honey Flash!" for a reason; correction on 11/02: Sailor Moon was just barely preceded by Sailor V, a short, relatively obscure transforming-magical-girl-fighting-baddies shoujo title by the same creator, but it did everything else I've credited it with here), adding in a sentai team element (a group of color-coordinated fighters/best friends transforming and defeating the bad guys), and becoming wildly popular around the world- and spawning more mahou shoujo series that follow a similar pattern, like PreCure. So Cutey Honey's pretty significant even if it is incredibly trashy. (And as far as I know, Natsuko's the earliest ancestor of Tomoyo/Tamao/Kuroko/every-yuri-character-with-a-comical-crush-on-her-best-friend.)

So, if you can tolerate the service and gross-out humor (hur hur, the detective has a hemorrhoid- hur hur, now his ass is being karate-chopped), derive entertainment from the trippy moments (like Honey being inhaled by a giant panther and fighting several mutants in an alternate reality where she needs to quickly change forms- from a European knight to an animal tamer to Tarzan), and appreciate Honey's place as a benchmark manga and anime heroine (she has a likeable, strong-willed enough personality that it's easy to see how she has appealed to people in multiple demographics over the decades, with her story tweaked appropriately for its different variations), it's a title worth checking out.

Story: The story's a piece of crap (more for the execution than the underlying premise)... C
Art: C+
Overall: ...but it's a weird, historically valuable piece of crap. (Especially, for example, for someone whose gateway anime and manga was Sailor Moon.) B

Update: Re-posted on scans_daily.


P.S. said...

"After transferring to a yuri acid trip of a girls' school"

For some reason, I imagine Pink Floyd crossed over with Utena.

Katherine said...


Snark said...

Have you checked out any of the Cutie Honey anime?

New Cutie Honey is really good, though admittedly trashy as hell.

In my opinion however, Re:Cutie Honey is amazing and most definitely deserving of a look. And with its heavy helping of yuri ai, it's probably right up your alley.

Katherine said...

@Snark- I've seen some of the original Cutey Honey and Cutey Honey Flash. I have New Cutey Honey on DVD (yes, it's a lot of fun) and I loved the Re: Cutey Honey OVA. (Honey x police chief Nacchan ftw!!) I would buy it in a heartbeat if it were licensed. (I can't imagine why it hasn't been since it's a short, action-packed, fairly new Gainax production.)

Snark said...

Probably because Go Nagai properties are super obscure in the West.

As much as I'd hate to admit it, it'd be easy to find 100 Gurren Lagann fans, yet you'd be lucky to get a single Mazinger fan amongst them.

In much the same way, idiots and communist would probably just dismiss Cutie Honey as a "sailor moon knock off" and not give it the time of the day.

Nonetheless, we can always hope. I too would totally buy two copies of Re: if it ever got licensed. On a related note, do you know if New Cutie Honey sold well in the West?

Katherine said...

I don't know. It may or may not have sold poorly (by anime DVD standards), but it certainly wasn't popular enough to make an English-language anime company pay attention and think, "Wow, let's bring more of this over."

I agree that part of it is Nagai's obscurity here. (But then I keep seeing English-language anime companies releasing equally obscure crap like Tayutama on DVD, and my heart breaks a little bit.)

P.S. said...

"But then I keep seeing English-language anime companies releasing equally obscure crap like Tayutama on DVD, and my heart breaks a little bit."

Which is why I am grateful for Nozomi releasing such shows like Aria and Simoun.

Katherine said...

@P.S.- Media Blasters released Simoun (they also licensed Moribito, which you should really watch if you haven't)- but yes, mega-points to Nozomi and Media Blasters for releasing great/yuri-friendly shows. (^_^)b

P.S. said...

Sorry for the mix up for Simoun.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for Moribito.

Katherine said...

No worries. Glad you're interested in Moribito! It isn't yuri, but it's a terrific show. (And sorry about the Crunchyroll link- I forgot about the region restrictions.)