There is simply no way to start this review without stating one simple fact. Cutie Honey absolutely, positively should not work as a movie on any kind of level. It has all the ingredients of celluloid disaster stamped across its hot pink exterior. Let's run off the checklist shall we? Live action version of a popular cartoon? Check. A model turned actress cast in the lead role? Check. Heavy usage of cheap looking CG throughout? Check. Outrageous levels of camp? Check.Acting that belongs in a Loony Toons cartoon? Check. Yes, Cutie Honey should not work, but much to my surprise and resulting delight, it does on almost every level. Based on ageing anime and manga property that dates back to the 1970's, the movie tells the ludicrous tale of Honey Kisaragi, an almost unbearably cute office worker who leads a double life as the titular spandex clad Cutie Honey, self proclaimed 'warrior of love' and arch nemesis of the evil Panther Claw gang. Opening with a bizarre sequence that sees Honey sprinting through the streets clad only in her underwear, a bin liner and scoffing Onigiri before leaping into battle against a strangely androgynous warrior in golden armour, the movie starts as it means to go on, namely in as silly a manner as possible. The movie is pure parody from start to finish and was clearly never intended as a straight piece in any way, shape or form. Everything from the costume and set design, through to the special effects and carefully studied but nevertheless broad performances work together surprisingly well. Indeed it is the performances that truly elevate the movie way beyond its early promise of being a big budget Power Rangers knockoff. The lead trio of Eriko Sato (who I first saw in the TV version of Densha Otoko), Mikako Ichikawa and Jun Murakami as Honey, Detective Natsuko and shady photojournalist Seiji respectively deserve the biggest credit here which is fortunate as they have the lion's share of the screen time. Sato's performance in particular comes as a surprise considering her relatively short acting career at this point. While the somewhat two dimensional Honey was never going to be a stretch for most actresses, the characters brainless manner and relentless optimism could easily have ruled her and turned our heroine into an excruciatingly annoying one note joke. Instead Sato turns Honey into a staunch and heroic fighter of evil one minute, and adorably dimwitted office girl the next with a steady through line of heart-warming kindness and optimism that ties the two characters together. Visually Cutie Honey is something of a treat as well, being one of the closest things you will ever see to a live action anime. It even manages to go so far as including several knowing tips of the hat to its animated forefathers, including characters flying through the air, millions of rockets hurtling toward their targets and backgrounds giving way to speed lines when the action shifts into high gear. Even the cheap looking CG effects fit well within the movie. Since the reality of this film is quite plainly not our own, occasionally plastic looking CG characters or lapses in animation standards are more excusable and in their own way, prove to be as charming as the performances. Of course not to mention the director of this inspired lunacy would be a crime unto itself. Hideaki Anno once again proves to be possessed of unique insight into the emotions of his characters. Some of the emotional beats the movie strums along to are curiously similar to his most famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) work in Neon Genesis Evangelion, although the tone of Honey is infinitely lighter than that of Evangelion. Anno's direction is confident and his playful, sometimes biting sense of humour is clear for all to see. The movie relentlessly mocks not only anime conventions and stereotypes but its own silliness at the same time, coming to a head in a very entertaining drunken Karaoke session involving our three leads. Flaws are present though. The narrative, while hardly the movie's driving purpose, could still have been clearer and a little more focused. The Claws themselves make fun, if shallow villains, though they lack substantial motivation. The biggest drawback is the chief villain of Sister Jill, who feels more like a plot point presented as a full stop than a truly fun character in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the film. While the narrative does justify this personality (or lack thereof), it still makes for a staid and lacklustre final confrontation. Overall though, Cutie Honey is such a relentlessly cheerful movie it is hard not to get swept up by its boundless optimism. As an antidote to the countless dour Hollywood action flicks of the near decade since the release of the first Matrix movie, it serves its purpose admirably, and as a movie guaranteed to put a smile on your face there is none better.
Cutie Honey: Live Action
Cutie Honey: Live Action
The adventure of Cutie Honey, a super heroine who can transform into anything using her necklace to switch on and say "Honey Flash!".
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September 23, 2019