Friday, August 1, 2008

REVIEW: Cutie Honey - Hideaki Anno (2004)

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

I'm not a huge fan of shows like "Ultraman" or "Kamen Rider" (sorry folks), but I am now officially a big fan of Hideaki Anno's live-action take on Go Nagai's 35 year old manga/ anime phenomena "Cutie Honey". While I wasn't familiar with the character before watching Anno's 2004 adaptation I came out of the experience with my gut hurting from laughing for an hour and a half and a new found respect for the tokusatsu genre.

Like most of us Honey Kisaragi (Eriko Sato) is more than one person. Although most of the time she may be the average young woman, fond of cute outfits, fueling herself with onigiri from the local convenience store and working as an office lady at a mid-sized company a stroll around the corner or a flick of her hair can change her into a police officer, a biker, even one of her salaryman co-workers... literally. You see Honey just isn't a multi-faceted girl. No. She has a secret.

Honey's father was a brilliant scientist whose heart was broken when his daughter died in a car accident. Now wait. Honey's not a zombie. She's an android copy of Professor Kisaragi's daughter created with cutting edge nano-technology that gives Honey the power to transform matter by just thinking about it. This is what allows her to switch personas like most people change underwear, and when she's not an O.L. or running around in her underwear (which she does frequently) she's fighting crime as her most important persona, Cutie Honey! But the technology that makes Honey so special is what brings her to the attention of Panther Claw, a supernatural terrorist organization run by a multi-dimensional being named Sister Jill. She wants eternal life and is convinced that the nano-technology that gives Honey her powers will give it to her, so she dispatches her wildly outfitted minions like Golden Claw, Cobalt Claw, etc. to kidnap Honey's uncle and lure her into a trap that will see not only Honey's doom, but the doom of the entire world.

Now, that sounds like the plot of an episode of "Sailor Moon" doesn't it? Well, "Cuite Honey" is very similar to that hit anime series; a perky young girl in short skirt and low-cut top transforms into an aggressive, sexually mature woman when faced with the threat of supernatural female villains from an alternate universe. Actually come to think of it the two are nearly identical, but what makes "Cutie Honey" so much fun is that Anno, the creator of the "Neon Genesis Evangelion" series, uses the manic camera work of his directorial debut, the enjo kosai drama "Love & Pop" to do what most live-action anime adaptations do in name only: give audiences the chance to see a real flesh and blood cartoon... and it works wonderfully.

All of the minuses that I see when I watch an episode of a magical girl-type of anime, the ridiculous poses, the over the top action and the juvenile sexuality all become comedy pluses when Anno adapts them to the screen 100% faithfully, right down to the hilarious wig that Jun Murakami wears as Honey's love interest Seiji. It also doesn't hurt that Eriko Sato shares great comic timing with Murakami and Mikako Ichgikawa who plays Detetive Natsuko Aki, the straight woman to Honey's ditsy performance.

If you're looking for flat out fun complete with costumed crime fighters, a bit of naughty cheesecake and the occasional musical number then run out and rent "Cutie Honey" while I reconsider my old prejudice against the tokusatsu genre.

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