Review

by Christopher Macdonald, May 28th 2004

Cutie Honey

Live Action

Synopsis:
Cutie Honey
Thanks to the marvel of her father's i-mode nano-technology, Honey Kisaragi was reborn a year and a half ago, but with no memory of her previous life. Although Honey lost her memory, she gained the ability to transform into anyone she pleases, with her ultimate transformation being Cutie Honey, a super powerful, super-busty super-hero. Unfortunately, the wondrous technology that allowed Dr. Kisaragi to resurrect his dead daughter also lead to his own demise at the hands of the Panther Claw. A mysterious group of cultish villains that revere their leader, the immortal Sister Jill, the Panther Claw seek to use i-mode for their own purposes. In the year since her re-birth Honey has worked at integrating herself into society, but now Panther Claw is back and has kidnapped her uncle who carried on her father's research. With the help of a mysterious reporter who knows too much, and a tough as nails cop, Honey sets out to rescue her uncle and save the world from Panther Claw.
Review:
Cutie Honey live action is camp. Once you understand this and lower your expectations accordingly, you may really enjoy the film, as it is really good camp. To compare this movie with a North American blockbuster, and to judge it based on the same standards will inevitably lead to disappointment. On the other hand, if you judge it against other similar live action adaptations of anime, for example Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon or Kamen Rider, Cutey Honey starts to look much better.

The cinematography is actually very good; in order to make up for low budgets, Anime directors have long learned to make heavy use of scene editing, changing camera angles and the like. Anno brings this knowledge to his live action work and the result is a low budget movie that doesn't look half as low budget as it really is. Taking things a step further, Anno brings to his adaptation many visual cues from the animated Cutie Honey. Several times Honey is engaged in aerial combat against projectile firing foes. Rather than waste his time (and budget) in a doomed attempt to make this look good via special effects, he makes it look exactly like the manga and anime; a series of blurred still shots of Honey evading and parrying the aerial attacks. The only difference is that instead of an illustrated Honey, the sequences feature live action shots. The result is a visual homage, one of many found in this movie, that will please anyone with any knowledge of the original, and will look like complete trash to almost everyone else.

Although the movie was sometimes billed as a cosplay extravaganza, it really isn't one. Eriko Satoh does get the opportunity to dress in multiple uniforms; that of a race bike rider, police woman, office lady… but for the most part she is either dressed as Cutie Honey or as Honey Kisaragi. Half a dozen different costumes may sound like a lot, but when most of them are only worn for a few brief seconds, it doesn't add up to very much in a feature-length movie. The Cutie Honey costume itself, though, is a masterpiece of costuming. It doesn't actually look anything like the original Cutie Honey outfit at all, yet it manages to capture the essence of the original fabulously, all the while managing not to look tacky and plastic like so many other live action costume adaptations. The other costumes are a bit of a mixed bag, the first super villain the audience is introduced to, Gold Claw, doesn't look particularly great, and neither does Scarlet Claw, although her appearance is too brief and inconsequential to matter. However, Sister Jill, Cobalt Claw and Black Claw are all beautifully adapted for the screen.

As with any adaptation, certain liberties had to be taken with the script. However this movie is much more faithful to the original Cutie Honey than various other adaptations have been. The plot is fairly simple and straight forward, we are introduced to Honey Kisaragi, a bird-brained girl that apparently likes to tease the audience with her legs and shoulders, though little more. From here we are quickly thrust into the action as Honey receives a phone call from her Uncle who is in the midst of being kidnapped. In order to save her uncle, Honey quickly begins to transform into Cutie Honey, the bird-brained super heroine that likes to show us a little cleavage and kick butt. However, something goes a little amiss with the transformation, and before we can get straight to the action the audience is subjected to a short interlude that is perhaps the movie's campiest, silliest and funniest moment. The subsequent battle against Gold Claw continues in this vein, establishing that, as I mentioned above, this movie is camp. From here, the film is all uphill. Rather than start off with some weak melodrama, Anno starts the movie off by making it clear to the audience what they should expect, and then proceeds to exceed those expectations.

As with the movie as a whole, comparing and judging the acting by a certain set of standards will lead to disappointment, and again, compared to other live action adaptations of anime, Cutie Honey doesn't look so bad. Eriko Satoh is not the best actress that Japan has to offer for a lead role. She is after all one of Yellow Cab's swim suit idols, not a group you expect to be picked for parts based on their acting capability. Satoh is no exception, obviously cast for her good looks, shapely figure and fanboy following. All this aside, her lack of acting skill doesn't hamper the movie at all. The part of Honey Kisaragi was virtually made for a bad actress: all she has to do is say stupid things and look cute, and she's perfect for the part. The noticeable bad acting is all on the part of the other actors and actresses, but once again, no one in their right mind will go to see Cutie Honey and expect great acting. Perhaps the best thing this side of the Pacific to compare Cutie Honey to would be Charlie's Angel's 2. Much like director McG used bad acting to that movie's advantage, Anno sculpts Cutie Honey around the cast's lack of ability, only much more capably than McG. It could be said that Cutie Honey is a masterpiece of bad acting.

If you've ever had any exposure to Cutie Honey in any format, even if you aren't an actual fan, then you really should take whatever opportunity you can get to see this movie. It's not the sort of movie that will dazzle and convert non-anime fans, but rather the kind of movie that will please the inner Otaku.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C
Music : B+

+ Good Campy Fun
Good Campy Fun

Director:Hideaki Anno
Script:
Hideaki Anno
Rumi Takahashi
Original creator:Go Nagai
Character Design:
Moyoco Anno
Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Shinichi Sugimura
Katsuya Terada
Art:Hisashi Sasaki
Animation Director:Tadashi Hiramatsu
Animation Character Design:Tadashi Hiramatsu
Executive producer:
Yoshiji Kaga
Tetsuya Kato
Producer:
Morio Amagi
Motoo Kawabata

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Cutie Honey (live-action movie)

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