Wednesday 11 April 2018

First Impressions: Cutie Honey Universe

Cutie Honey Universe
Cutie Honey Universe is available in streaming form on HIDIVE

With 2018 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Go Nagai as manga artist, there's been a pretty noticeable revival of his most famous works in the past few months. The original 1972 Mazinger Z anime series received a continuation in the form of the Mazinger Z Infinity movie, while Devilman became the talk of the town after Netflix launched the Devilman Crybaby remake back at the beginning of the year. The only one missing from the trifecta is of course Cutie Honey , the 1973 manga turned anime series which had a huge influence on the magical girl genre and spawned numerous sequels, remakes and reboots. This spring season sees Nagai's fanservice favourite return in Cutie Honey Universe, a brand new series from Production Reed (the studio formerly known as Ashi Productions).

Honey and AkiCutie Honey

Honey Kisaragi continues her double life a student at Saint Chapel and the "soldier of love" Cutie Honey, battling the evil forces of Sister Gill and the Panther Claw organisation. Their target is the Airborne Element Fixing Device – an invention created by Honey's late father and the main source of her powers.

Given the unprecedented success of Devilman Crybaby it isn't all that surprising that many are choosing now to dive into some of Go Nagai's other works. While I've been a Mazinger fan for some years now, Crybaby was my first proper exposure to Devilman and boy did it leave an impression. As such I had some hope that this series would offer a similarly good jumping on point for Cutie Honey, but those were quickly dashed as it became immediately clear Cutie Honey Universe wasn't going to be all that welcoming to newcomers. While the episode itself can feasibly be followed by someone with no prior knowledge of the franchise, it runs with assumption that the viewer knows who all the main characters are along with any little bits of terminology that might be important (the Atmospheric Element Condenser for example). There's no introductions or explanations, which is a little disappointing given that the last animated instalment of the franchise was Re: Cutie Honey back in 2004.

Sister Jill and HoneyPanther Claw

What Cutie Honey Universe does have in common with Devilman Crybaby however is that it wastes no time in showing you just how "Go Nagai" it's going to be. Mazinger is the hypermasculine action series, Devilman is the multi-layered hyper violent entry and then Cutie Honey is the horny one. This premiere is fan service from almost start to finish, including (but not limited) to naked transformation scenes, clothes ripping, sex and bondage. This is all presented into the most schlocky way possible, and the show is completely unapologetic about any of it. The obvious titillation it's going for certainly isn't going to be everyone's tastes, and given the extremely lowbrow presentation of it that's a perfectly respectable response. But at the very least it seems (from what I understand) Cutie Honey Universe is being fairly true to the original manga's problematic origins, so maybe there's some merit in that as well?

Outside of all that the episode itself is serviceable enough, never really striking any high notes but doing enough in terms of plotting and action to hopefully keep viewers interested for another week. The animation has an early 2000s OVA feel to it that really works in its favour, and the monster designs are equally wonderful. With the added context behind characters like Sister Jill the encounter between her and Honey at the end of the episode might have carried a bit more weight, but for a newcomer it just felt like another bit of the rather episodic storyline.


Cutie Honey Universe is a show that I definitely want to stick with for now, but as it doesn't work as a particularly viable entry point might not come out well as representative of the franchise as a whole. Who knows, maybe the show's just pulling a Shin Mazinger Z and just wants to throw viewers in at the deep end first. But whatever happens one thing is definitely for sure - Cutie Honey Universe is going to be quite the rollercoaster of debauchery.


Anonymous said...

If you want to know more about Cutie Honey watch Cutie Honey The Live.It got me from surprise for how good it was.Its not just pure fanservice.

Alex said...

I have heard good things about The Live! Will definitely check it out at some stage.