Cutey HoneyTakahiro MiuraTakashi NishinaTakashi Sasano
Cutie Honey: Tears
Medium: film
Year: 2016
Director: Takeshi Asai
Original creator: Go Nagai
Keywords: SF, robot girl
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Hina Fukatsu, Ren Imai, Nicole Ishida, Koichi Iwaki, Akiko Kurano, Takahiro Miura, Tasuku Nagase, Takashi Nishina, Mariya Nishiuchi, Yukihiro Nishiyama, Takashi Sasano, Sosuke Takaoka, Kakeru Yoshiie
Format: 92 minutes
Series: << Cutey Honey >>
Website category: Japanese SF
Review date: 7 March 2018
Cutey Honey
Well, that was new. Not particularly good, but new.
They've made Cutie Honey miserable and put her in a cyberpunk future. I don't really think it works, but it was a valid experiment. I'd say it was worth trying. For me it didn't hit the mark, but I admire the way it's turning its back on all the familiar, crowd-pleasing things about the franchise and challenging our expectations. It's deliberately stripping out almost everything you'd associate with Cutie Honey, turning her into a morose robot who smiles so rarely that that's her defining characteristic. Even the title's telling us that she's unhappy. She thinks everyone she gets involved will die and that that's her fault.
To put it mildly, this is unusual characterisation for Honey. The 1970s original was a lovable, playful schoolgirl who loved her naked transformation sequences and all her different disguises. (She'd then startle you by using lethal force on Panther Claw, because they killed her father.) More recent live-action adaptations have turned her into a hyperactive, child-like idiot, so in principle I like the idea of doing a much more dark, grounded version. That recently happened with another Go Nagai fanservice property, incidentally, in 2012's Kekko Kamen Reborn. That film I liked. My problem with this one is simply that to me it doesn't feel like Honey. I don't recognise this character as her. They've made a perfectly good near-future SF film with some core similarities to the franchise it's namechecking, but I think it's put so much distance between itself and the original that I don't think it's really managed to be Cutie Honey, or to get close enough to be saying much about it.
I'm not offended, mind you. I don't need to climb on a soapbox or have a rant. Besides, my perspective won't be universal since I happen to be a bigger Cutey Honey fan than is reasonable and I own all her anime on DVD, right back to the original 1970s anime series and often on the original Japanese discs. A more casual viewer would probably just think "cyberpunk future, sad android girl, that was okay".
It's not even a reconstruction, incidentally. I'd been half-expecting all this to be set-up, as the film got ready to rebuild Cutie Honey from scratch as a sort of origin story. However that's not the case either. Admittedly the second half nods to a few Honey trademarks, e.g. saying "kawaru wa yo" and walking down a catwalk as her famous theme song plays diegetically. The film even uses a disguise transformation. However there's absolutely nothing triumphant about the story being told here, which instead has a bittersweet ending and not much happiness.
Anyway, let's forget all that. Let's not worry about some pervy old Go Nagai franchise. Let's talk about the film we have in front of us. We're in a futuristic city that's been realised quite stylishly, which what appears to be a reasonably decent budget. Everyone's happy, white and shiny. It's what we used to think the future would look like, but with more flying surveillance robots. (It's the opposite of Cosplay City from the 1990s OVAs.) However there's also a bit of an underworld, which is where you'll find the people who know about the extreme environmental problems and the totalitarian corporate government. (The latter is Sister Jill.) There are pseudo-terrorists, TV celebrities and a really bad cloud. Cutie Honey is here too, although that's not her name and we only hear it when Jill's teasing her. She's called Hitomi Kisaragi, she usually wears sackcloth and she really doesn't like being followed.
The film's nothing special, but it does what it does perfectly well. Hitomi has some character growth. The baddies are convincingly badass and Jill's scary when she cuts loose in combat. The film's not going for the nudity, but that's normal for live-action Cutie Honey adaptations. This isn't Kekko Kamen. Overall, this is an unremarkable but competent dystopian near-future SF film with a bit of an environmental angle. It's okay. I wouldn't call it memorable. I don't know if even hardcore Cutie Honey fans will necessarily all be buying the DVD, but there's nothing much wrong with it.