Go Nagai is a legendary writer and manga artist who has been in the business since the mid-1960s, and he was one of the first writers to be published in the now-legendary manga magazine Shōnen Jump. He is the mind behind smash-hit series like Devilman, Mazinger Z and Violence Jack and is often seen as the creator of both the super robot and magical girl genres. So it makes sense that he would want to celebrate his 40th anniversary in the business in a big way, and while Cutie Honey: The Live is a fitting celebration of Go Nagai's talents, it is also a strange one, but thanks to Discotek Media, American fans will soon be able to enjoy every weird moment.
Cutie Honey: The Live is a live-action entry in the long-running Cutie Honey franchise. First appearing in 1973 in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Champion, the series is considered one of the first magical girl manga. It spawned a franchise that has involved many manga, anime, live-action films and video games. However, despite being popular in Japan, in America, the franchise has never been as big as the shows it inspired.
Released in 2007, Cutie Honey: The Live is a mixture of a reboot and a retelling of the original Cutie Honey story. It follows cheerful and ditzy Honey Kisaragi as she goes about her day-to-day life at her all-girl high school. However, Honey has a secret. She is actually an android created by murdered scientist Dr. Kōshirō Kisaragi. Built into Honey is a device called the Airborne Element Fixing Device, or the Honey System. This system allows Honey to transform into the superpowered Cutie Honey simply by tapping her necklace and shouting "Honey Flash!"
Using this power, Honey plans to work out who murdered Dr. Kisaragi. However, an evil gang called Panther Claw is lurking in the shadows, hoping to steal the Honey System for their own nefarious schemes. However, as the series continues, Honey finds two other girls who have powers similar to hers. This revelation forces her to explore her past and learn about her true origins, all while trying to defeat Panther Claw once and for all.
The show starts as your standard comedy tokusatsu fare, full of goofy innuendo-laden comedy and over-the-top action as Honey fights her way through silly Panther Claw minions. However, the series takes a darker turn in the second half as Honey's past slowly gets uncovered. As Cutie Honey: The Live goes on, the body count increases, and topics like the nature of humanity, the sanctity of the human body and what it means to be evil slowly take center stage, and the series often veers into full-on body horror in the later episodes. In fact, the last few episodes are unexpectedly melancholy, something one wouldn't expect going into this series.
With only 26 episodes, the last of which is a DVD-only epilogue, Cutie Honey: The Live feels like a strange and surreal rollercoaster with how quickly it shifts in tone. This leads to a very unique experience that really must be seen to be believed. While it can be criticized for its lack of focus, Cutie Honey: The Live actually comes together and forms something extremely memorable, and in a nice touch, the DVD-exclusive episode features an on-screen cameo by Go Nagai.
Cutie Honey: The Live may not be the best entry in the Cutie Honey franchise, but it is one of the most memorable. Its strange blend of comedy and horror has led to it gaining cult status among fans. Hopefully, Discotek Media's release will finally let American fans enjoy the weirdness for themselves. Cutie Honey: The Live is unique, strange, controversial and boundary-pushing, and because of that, it is the perfect tribute to Go Nagai and his works.