Seeing as how I would spend as much of childhood Saturdays as possible watching cartoons, I figured it was only appropriate to kick off my marathon with a live-action remake of a cartoon. Granted, Cutie Honey wasn’t exactly the sort of cartoon I watched as a kid — created by the infamous Gô Nagai, the anime’s titular character was a shapely android who could transform into any number of costumes, each with their own power, but in the process of doing so, she’d lose all of her clothing.
Although the live action Cutie Honey doesn’t go that far during the transformation sequences, it does offer up quite a bit of eye candy, as Honey appropriates a number of slinky, revealing outfits. Thing is, though, the movie is played so lightheartedly and fluffily, with the action sequences so over the top and the tone of the film going to the silliest of extremes — from Eriko Sato’s ultra-chipper acting to the musical numbers to the hammy acting that would make Power Rangers look like Oscar material — that the thing never comes off the slightest bit offensive or leering.
The plot, if it really matters, is as follows. Honey was once a young girl who was killed in a car accident. Her father, a brilliant scientist, revived her using the “I System.” The criminal outfit Panther Claw — whose members resemble a drag queen ensemble from the 6th dimension more than a bunch of hardened gangsters (seriously, this thing deserves some award for the costume design alone) — want this technology to grant their leader Sister Jill (I’m not making that up, I promise) immortality. With me so far?
Honey springs, bounds, and leaps into action, backed by a suspicious journalist and a straightlaced police inspector. However, Honey’s real assistance comes from director Hideaki Anno. No stranger to anime — he’s the man behind the legendary Neon Genesis Evangelion series — Anno pushes the movie to delirious heights, which might be why it works so well. Although there are a handful of surprisingly emotional moments during which Honey wrestles with her loneliness, Anno generally realizes the silliness of the whole endeavor and responds in kind.
Rather than try to take the anime “format” and transform it so that it works as live action, Anno retools the live action format so that it works for anime. Although this is evident throughout the movie, it’s most evident during the action sequences. Honey flies through the air, her body twisting and turning as she dodges missiles, bullets, and laser beams. Most people would try to accomplish the effect using all manner of CGI, but Anno uses a combination of CGI, stop motion, and plain old animation. The effect is as unrealistic as possible, but it’s absolutely perfect for the film.
Although at the completely opposite end of the spectrum from the live action remake of Casshern, Cutie Honey works as well because it doesn’t play things realistically. Whereas Casshern ups the tragedy to mythic heights, Cutie Honey plays it fast and loose, from the action sequences to the slew of cheesecake outfits donned by Honey to the ridiculous poses every member of the cast strikes in every scene. Silly, cheesy, and fluffy — and unashamedly so.