A live action version of the enduringly popular Japanese manga and anime series, “Cutie Honey” was directed by Hideaki Anno of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” fame. Originally released back in 2004, the film now arrives on region 2 DVD via MVM Entertainment, finally giving fans a chance to revel in its sugary sweet bubblegum madness. Although comic book adaptations are big business around the world, it’s hard to imagine another coming quite so close to matching its source material, with Anno delivering a colourful, fun filled burst of energy that truly captures the giddy joy of the manga.
Former model Eriko Sato (who went on to star in the likes of horror “Slit Mouthed Woman” and “Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!”) stars as the titular Honey, a cutely incompetent office worker who spends most of her time sitting around at home in her underwear. However, when her inventor uncle is kidnapped, she presses the heart shaped button on her choker and turns into Cutie Honey, an alluringly dressed and super-enthusiastic heroine. She comes up against the evil Panther Claw Gang and their demonic leader Sister Jill, who are determined to grab her necklace for their own. Helped rather unwillingly by tough cop Natsuko Aki (television actress Mikako Ichikawa, also in the excellent “Memories of Matsuko”) and the mysterious journalist/secret agent Seiji (Jun Murakami, who recently co-starred with Takeshi Kaneshiro in “Accuracy of Death”), Honey takes on the crazed villains while getting into all manner of wacky scrapes.
“Cutie Honey” gets off to a great start with an opening scene of Eriko Sato leaping out of a bubble bath and running down the street in her underwear, stuffing food into her mouth in an effort to generate enough energy to transform into her super alter-ego. This gives a good indication of Anno’s approach, and indeed the film is pretty much nonstop fun from start to finish. Directing with a hyperkinetic style that outdoes even Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle” for surreal cartoonery, his anime background really comes to the fore as he throws in a dizzying array of oddball touches, gratuitous musical numbers and visual techniques. Through this, he truly manages to bring the manga to life and the film packs in enough joyful eye candy to bring a smile even to the most sceptical of viewers. It certainly helps that the film’s budget was reasonably high by the standards of the genre in Japan, with the special effects and computer work being distinctly above average. Although there are a few moments of shoddiness here and there even these are cheerful enough not to matter, and the film really is the kind of retinal injection of colours and infectious kicks that recent flop “Speed Racer” so badly wished it could be.
The gorgeous Eriko Sato is pitch perfect in the title role, and although not in the habit of losing her clothes certainly looks great in her many costumes. The cast all seem to be having a huge amount of fun, and as such it’s hard for the viewer not to be swept along in all the hysteria. Needless to say, the plot is complete nonsense, hurtling off on tangents on a whim, though thanks to its hugely likeable characters it remains engaging right the way through to the weirdly loved up, though fitting conclusion.
Although admittedly “Cutie Honey” may be a bit much for some, especially those prone to saccharine sickness, for anime fans or anyone who enjoys Japanese pop cinema, it’s a dream come true. Bright, big hearted and bursting with imaginative energy, it offers unashamedly silly fun while proving that not all superhero films need be grim, soul searching affairs.
Hideaki Anno (director) / Hideaki Anno, Rumi Takahashi (screenplay), Gô Nagai (comic)
CAST: Eriko Sato … Honey Kisaragi / Cutie Honey
Mikako Ichikawa … Natsuko Aki
Jun Murakami … Seiji Hayami
Mitsuhiro Oikawa … Black Claw
Hairi Katagiri … Gold Claw
Sie Kohinata … Cobalt Claw / Rinko Terada
Mayumi Shintani … Scarlet Claw
Ryo Kase … Todoroki