The Tokyo police have three problems. Firstly, a criminal organisation known as Panther Claw is terrorising the city. Secondly, a vigilante in fancy dress keeps showing up and flattening Panther Claw's evil schemes (and minions) before disappearing, although usually not without causing a certain amount of collateral damage. Thirdly, some idiot in the personnel division seems to have decided that all policemen should be barely sentient gnomes the size of chipmunks incapable of anything beyond wild celebration at the slightest provocation. Unsurprisingly Police Inspector Aki Natsuko is in a bad mood.
Based on Anno Hideaki's 2004 live-action movie, this OVA expands the 93-minute original into three 45-minute episodes. The film was Power Rangers nonsense, but with some chirpy performances fighting to get past the "bwahahaha, I will defeat you puny humans" scenes. Eriko Sato and Mikako Ichikawa sparked together, being cute and funny, and there was even some thoughtful stuff about what it's like to be Cutey Honey.
The movie has some lovely little moments, but not enough to prevent this adaptation from being superior in every way. Damningly the OVA's best bits come when it completely abandons the movie and strikes off on its own. The middle episode in particular has almost nothing to do with the movie's plot and as a result is so blatantly superior to it that it's almost ridiculous. It has more involvement for our heroes, better fight scenes, more emotion, a deeper Natsuko-Honey relationship, a lovely poignant scene halfway through and then Natsuko stripping (rrrrrrr) towards the end. Oh, and Honey doesn't randomly run out of energy like some kind of inconvenient gadget.
Oh yes, the energy thing. Hmmmm. Honey's a robot with shapeshifting clothes, so you can see the logic behind her apparel melting away when she's low on energy. I don't like it though. In practice it's a cheap way of incapacitating Honey whenever it helps the plot, although on the upside the OVA takes the "disappearing clothes" idea further than the live-action movie ever allowed itself to do. This is Cutey Honey. Nudity is a sufficient excuse for anything. Nevertheless even in these three episodes the idea wears out its welcome. It doesn't help that scenes of outrageously excessive eating (Honey's method of recharging) are overfamiliar in anime.
The nudity is incredible. You probably never thought you'd hear me say this, but there's almost too much of it. The OVA arguably overcompensates for the movie's shocking excess of clothing by throwing in so much nudity (with nipples!) that eventually you hardly notice it. It loses its impact. The animated jiggle moments are funnier than the nudity, because they feel more gratuitous. This isn't a fanservice show. Nothing's realistic. It's wildly energetic eye candy, throwing wacky stuff at the screen rather than trying to recreate any kind of real world. It looks almost kiddified! There are even caricatures of the movie's Jun Murakami and Mikako Ichikawa as Seiji and Natsuko. However reassuringly one look at the villains will reassure you that the perverted legacy of Go Nagai has not been forgotten. There's a henchman with a crotch-mounted bazooka, although that lesbian bondage spiderwoman is from the movie.
Amusingly we also get an updated Knight Honey, wearing what must be the world's least practical armour since it only covers 20% of her body. It's what you'd have got if medieval knights had been attention-seeking Japanese schoolgirls.
Cutey Honey herself is the biggest improvement. Eriko Sato is adorable in the live-action version, but she's the goofball lead of a tokusatsu movie. I couldn't think of her as the real thing. The first OVA episode is the most comedic and perhaps too faithful to the movie, but by the next episode the intensity levels have risen to match the real Cutey Honey. Her foes are imposing and her fights are to the death. However at the same time, the movie's emotional material has been preserved and even deepened. Cutey Honey hasn't been turned into Arnold Schwarzenegger. She's still just a girl, sometimes insecure and afraid.
Each episode has its own individual feel thanks to each having its own director and writer. Interestingly as with the 1990s OVAs, I wasn't wild about the opening episode on first watching, but then came to appreciate it better after a marathon rewatch of all things Honey. Both OVA series started by establishing their world and supporting characters and only then introduce Honey, which if you're already familiar with the character is actually a welcome decision. Furthermore you'd never watch the live-action movie for its script, but the OVA's greater length allows more ambition and more room to breathe. Natsuko and Seiji are better, the baddies more menacing and the emotional scenes have more weight. Natsuko gets to be heroic, while being spared Jun Murakami's annoying Seiji is in itself an upside.
This version of Cutey Honey is the loudest, gaudiest and silliest to date, but it makes a huge journey from the beginning's jaunty comedy to an emotional climax. Unfortunately the latter is weighed down by the movie's "Power of Love" resolution, despite improvements on it. However I must give it credit for being a Cutey Honey series with a proper ending in the first place. Overall, this series is lots of fun. It's bursting with energy and assaults you with the famous theme at every opportunity, as is right and proper. It's lovely.