New Cutey Honey
Mike Toole rates it:
God bless Go Nagai! After the incomparable Osamu Tezuka, it seems fairly apparent that he's the king of anime and manga, having created entire genres singlehandedly with series' like Devilman and Mazinger Z. Cutey Honey is another piece of his legacy, a dizzy, cheerful show about a pretty female android who battles evil by switching between various costumes (a biker chick, a guerilla, and her classic spandex n' sword ensemble) losing all of her clothing for a few moments in the process. Some people hailed the original 1973 Cutey Honey as one of the very first "magical girl" shows, influencing stuff down the line like Sailor Moon and Wedding Peach, and others just saw it as an expression of Nagai's typical love for cheesecake nudity and superheroics. These episodes are actually a high-profile 1991 OVA remake of the '73 series.
Times have changed. The legendary Cutey Honey's original nemesis, Panther Claw, is long dead, but the residents of Cosplay City (ha!) live in fear of Dolmeck and his gangs of evil bikers and flying monkeys. (Okay, okay, no flying monkeys.) Standing tall against Dolmeck are the newly-elected Mayor Light, his secretary Honey Kisagiri, and their young friend, Chokkei. As fate would have it, Honey is actually Cutey Honey herself suffering from amnesia, and it isn't long until she reawakens and leaps into battle against the bad guys, naked as a jaybird.
Cutey Honey is tons of fun, a light, tasty action-comedy that's so spirited and silly and tongue-in-cheek that it doesn't even qualify as a guilty pleasure. Chokkei's family put the "funk" in dysfunctional-- they include a pair of bumbling bank robbers (his parents!) and his wizened old grandpa, who seems to have been fitted with weapons reminiscent of Nagai's 70s super robots. The bad guys are goofy caricatures (my favorite is "Virtual Hacker"), and there's plenty of slapstick comedy and gratuitous nudity to go around.
This is animated really well. The character designs are letter-perfect to Go Nagai's original (quite appealing!) character designs. Best of all, stock footage isn't used in Honey's transformation scenes-- each one is unique and usually executed spectacularly, with Honey's clothing shredding and reforming as she executes a backflip or leaps into the sky. It's quite fresh-looking and exciting-- one of the better OVAs to come out in the past decade, I'd say.
The dub is handled rather straightforwardly. Jessica Calvello, handpicked by Nagai himself to play the English-language Cutey Honey, gives the character a growling, tough-girl charm that was conspicuously absent from the original version. There are other positives, like regulars Tristan MacAvery (portraying the loudmouthed, filthy-minded, and seemingly-invincible Grandpa Danbei) and Tiffany Grant, who, as Chokkei's mom, gets to bellow and hurl insults even more than her signature character, Evangelion's Asuka Langley. ADVs dubs used to be an embarrasment to other dubs, but things have really gotten to the point that their actors are quite possibly their best asset aside from the actual anime titles themselves. In fact, my only real complaint is the sound mixing-- sounds like somebody up and puked on the sound board, because the audio levels are all over the place. I can say that there aren't any embarrasingly-awkward uses of Japanese honorifics the English dub, a problem which ADV has fairly often. The only big minus in the English version is the use of the horribly stupid-sounding English version of the Cutey Honey theme song. Unlike the high-powered original (itself a remake of the 70s TV series theme), the beat is softer on this one, and the lyrics themselves are virtually nonsense.
You can't go wrong here, though. It's titles like Cutey Honey that give anime its reputation for being laden with sex and violence, but that doesn't stop it from being good. Also, future episodes seem to hint at other Go Nagai references, including an appearance by Devilman. I'm waiting with bated breath to see how that one turns out, considering how much Nagai loves to team up his characters...
Added: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Related Link: ADV Films