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Monday, July 8, 2013

Movie Penguin Monday: #20. Cutie Honey

Here's the plot of 2004's Cutie Honey, I think:

A young girl dies in a tragic accident, so her distraught father, who is also a scientist, recreates her body and soul with nanotechnology that gives her the ability to speedily change into any kind of "costume" she desires with the push of a heart-shaped button located on a choker that she wears at all times.  When pushing this same heart button and shouting the phrase "Honey Flash!" the girl, whose name is Honey Kisaragi I guess, transforms into the sword-swinging, boomerang-launching super hero, Cutie Honey.  Oh, I should add here that Kisaragi can only transform into Cutie Honey if she has enough energy.  Energy is provided by cheap, crummy rice balls she buys at her local pharmacy.

Let me catch my breath.  That was a whole lot of story just now, most of which is learned through snatches of dialogue and is never portrayed on screen.  Here comes the plot proper.  Hold on.

As the film opens, Kisaragi, who I'm just going to refer to as Cutie from now on because who cares, gets a call from her uncle (also a scientist) as he is being kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as Panther Claw.  Cutie cuts her morning bath (because OF COURSE she's taking a bath when the movie starts) short and dashes off to the pier, wearing a plastic grocery bag (because OF COURSE she's barely dressed), to save the day.  

At the pier, Cutie encounters the first of Panther Claw's four deadly enforcers, Gold Claw.  Gold Claw basically looks like a rejected Power Rangers villain (rejected mainly because of her ambiguous gender and nightmare-clown face paint) and postures like one too.  Gold Claw blows a bunch of stuff up, but is soundly defeated by Cutie's patented Honey Boomerang.  Cutie's uncle is recovered, but is re-kidnapped so quickly, I don't remember how or by whom.  He doesn't really matter anyway.  To be fair, this plot doesn't really matter either, but we've come this far, and it only gets crazier, so let's power forward.
During the battle on the pier, we are introduced to our secondary protagonist, Natsuko Aki, a severe police inspector with very little tolerance for Cutie Honey, who if I haven't said yet, is as cloyingly irritating as she is cute.  Natsuko attempts to arrest Cutie and Seiji Hayami, a reporter and our tertiary protagonist (I guess), who pops up out of nowhere just after the fighting is done, but Cutie teleports herself and the "mysterious" journalist, um, somewhere else.  Or something.

Look, Cutie Honey isn't the kind of movie you watch for its rich story, stunning visuals and intriguing character arcs.  You watch something like Cutie Honey for the improbable kung fu battles, the goofy jokes delivered at warp speed and annoying volume and the inevitable fan service.  Cutie Honey is based on a manga and anime series from the 1970s, after all.
Hello, fan service.  So nice of you to join us.

Anyway, the Panther Claw organization has resurrected some evil plant lady named Sister Jill who longs to possess the secret of Cutie Honey's power.  The remaining Panther Claw enforcers--Cobalt Claw, a blue weirdo with secret arms hidden behind a series of zippers when they're not in use; Scarlet Claw, who can shoot fireballs out of her mouth; and Black Claw, who can turn himself into a tornado and sings a song of introduction before engaging in fisticuffs with our hero--attempt to capture Cutie, but, ultimately, fail.

Black Claw's introduction ditty isn't the only random musical interlude we get in Cutie Honey.  There's a weird montage of Cutie, distraught and frowny, strolling around Japan in various sexually explicit outfits, as well as a drunken karaoke party starring the film's three leads.  Oh, and let's not forget Cutie Honey's opening credits song (starts around 06:50, but I encourage you to watch all 12 minutes, as this should give you a pretty good idea of what Cutie Honey is all about):

Jonesing for more Cutie Honey shenanigans after that clip?  Well, why don't you wait a few paragraphs and find out my ultimate opinion.  I bet you don't know which way I'm gonna go, do you?  I'm mysterious that way, kind of like Cutie Honey, only I'm not a super hot Asian lady made out of nanobots whose alter-ego is an overly cheerful temp at an insurance agency.  What?!?  Here's a picture of some people singing karaoke.
I am a huge fan of anime.  I stop short of referring to myself as an "anime nerd" because I think a true anime nerd (you know the type, I'm sure) could anime me under the table.  And that's fine with me.  There are specific animes that I like and some I can't stand.  A bad anime movie or series can quite literally be the worst thing one could ever allow into his or her fully functioning brain.  Like, worse than illegal drugs or a marathon of snuff films.  I'm talking rough, rough stuff.

I know what I like in my anime and I know what I don't like, and I have a huge hunch that if I were to sit down and watch Cutie Honey in animated form, I would turn it off after 7 seconds and toss the DVD into the nearest active volcano.  I'm almost certain it's chock full of every anime cliche I despise (near constant screaming; giant tear/sweat drops; sudden, unexplained drops in animation quality; etc.). I bet I'd hate it.
Cutie Honey the movie, however, is great fun (did you guess right?).  It's undeniably stupid, yes, but I was entertained from start to finish.  

Actually, hold up, let's talk about the finish for a second, or, not the finish so much, but the penultimate scene in which Cutie and Sister Jill meet for their final battle.  Like most anime I've watched, even the one's I've totally loved, Cutie Honey has a shitty ending.  I mean, the ending just sucks.  Not only is it nonsensical and disappointing, but it's sappy.  I'm all for love being the most important thing in life, well, love and tacos (and friendship...fine!), but was having Sister Jill, who really is one of the grossest creatures ever committed to film, learn about the transformative power of love really the best way to end things?  I don't think so.  For Pete's sake, Sister Jill has been kidnapping young girls from all over the world and EATING THEM to remain in human form (oh, yeah, she's a huge tree or something dumb like that).  She needs some pruning with a magic sword, not a lesson in unconditional love.  

Stupid ending aside, Cutie Honey is packed to the gills with goofy fights, crummy special effects and random acts of singing.  It's a super fun trifle that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys weird, campy and/or dumb stuff.  HONEY FLASH!

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