Assistant Professor Robert Steiner might as well just write "Indiana Jones" in his job description, except that he has sideburns instead of a hat. On his latest archeological expedition he found a priceless treasure, a 6000-year-old butterfly chrysalis. It may be the last of its species, but it's still alive. Unfortunately Panther Claw are after it, possibly because their representatives this time are insect-monsters weird even by Panther Claw standards. Can Cutey Honey save the day?
The Cutey Honey Flash movie is effectively an extended episode of the TV series, released by TOEI Animation in July 1997. Being only 38 minutes long, it was put in a double-bill with "Hell Teacher Nube" during its run at TOEI Anime Fair. To be honest, it's best not watched with any kind of expectations. It's not particularly good. It falls between two stools, lacking the character-driven shoujo strength of the TV series but not blowing anyone away as an action anime either. It wouldn't be a good introduction to Cutey Honey, but it's probably compulsory viewing for anyone watching the TV series. It rings a few changes and manages to stretch the format a little further than the TV episodes were allowed to do.
The main difference is extra perviness. Some people might not see this as a virtue in a film for little girls, but we're talking about Cutey Honey here. Instead of just having a token Flash Of The Week, here she gets four nude transformations, a shower scene and two impressively immodest disguises: (a) topless Jungle Honey and (b) Shamanic Honey, or as I like to say Egyptian Slut Honey. More mummy films should have heroines like that. No nipples of course, but one can't have everything. In addition Natsuko wears an impressively revealing dress, Seiji gets another faceful of Honey's bosom (and gets slapped) and one of the villains is called Lolita Claw, although her character design doesn't live down to her name.
Visually it's just like the TV show, including the budget-saving shortcuts in the action scenes. If you didn't know this wasn't a regular episode, you'd never guess. However we do get some imaginative Panther Claw character designs, including some real classics. Beetle Mama is lots of fun, but Lolita Claw is the best of the bunch. She's weird but oddly cute and has an amazing means of locomotion. This time they're all big bugs, giving an impression of Alice in Wonderland or perhaps James and the Giant Peach.
The action is... okay. There's a passable car chase, but as an action anime it's not even up there with the original 1970s TV series. We get machine guns and a little blood, but annoyingly Panther Claw are still thieves. Grrrrr. It's a real shame that this film wasn't made later, when the TV series had travelled still further from its relatively half-hearted opening run. As a continuity aside, this movie fits into a surprisingly specific window in the series. It postdates Misty Honey's debut, but it includes the first appearance of a significant plot development. Its premiere date was 12 July 1997, the broadcast date of episode 18, and that's a good place to put it. Unfortunately the movie had to ignore all the fascinating things that the TV series was doing around then with Misty Honey. Standalones can't participate in ongoing character arcs, so as a result this feels like a hiatus in something more interesting. It's just a retro runaround with Panther Claw. Okay, it's ripping off Indiana Jones too, but fortunately I like Indiana Jones and at least it looks pretty.
We meet Misty Honey and Prince Zera, but this is far from an unmixed blessing for newbies. They appear out of nowhere at the climax, kill something with no explanation and then teleport off again. Huh? Oh, right. As always I cracked up at Misty's delivery of the "sexy" in "Honey Sexy Dynamite", though. They're fun, but you're expected to know who they are in advance.
The film does one thing I dislike, which is to give Honey's transformation abilities the power to heal fatal wounds. It seems to be a tradition of Cutey Honey movies to ponder Honey's shapeshifting and come up with an imaginative but deeply unwelcome new idea about it. The one in the 2004 live-action movie was a pointless weakening of Honey, while this one theoretically makes her indestructible. To my surprise the TV series actually ended up taking this somewhere, but it's still an unfortunate drift towards the Sailor Moon tradition of winning through magic instead of brains and courage.
I like the fact that the MacGuffin isn't a valuable gold trinket or some other thing that's merely expensive, but a 6000 year old butterfly that's supposedly extinct. It allows for a nice ending.
This film isn't particularly good, but it's a significant addition to the TV series. It adds variety and perviness. Don't look forward to it too hard and there's no reason to seek it out unless you're watching the Cutey Honey Flash TV series, but if you are then there's no reason not to. If you avoid unrealistic expectations, it's undemanding fun. It's certainly the least interesting entry in the Cutey Honey franchise, although it's duking it out with the 2004 live-action movie for the title of actual "worst". There's nothing much wrong with it, though. It's okay.