Cutie Honey, the character, has been around for quite some time. Originally published in 1973 for Weekly Shōnen Champion she was, according to her creator, the first female protagonist of a shōnen manga series. The character has appeared in plenty of subsequent manga, anime, and a live action film.
According to IMDb, this film is now known as Cutie Honey: Live Action although the DVD I have is simply called Cutie Honey, and that’s the title I will stick with going forward.
The film stars Eriko Satô as Honey Kisaragi, an android girl whose necklace allows her transform her appearance into that of anyone she wishes, including her titular superhero identity, Cutie Honey. When Honey’s scientist uncle is kidnapped by the Panther Claw gang, it’s up to Honey to save the day.
This is a very silly film. When trying to transfer comic characters to the screen, many films tend to tone down the excesses and make the characters look a bit more plausible — there isn’t much spandex in the MCU films, for example. Cutie Honey, however, goes in completely the opposite direction. The film fully embraces the silliness of its concept and drops the viewer into an utterly bizarre alternate universe which really does feel like a comic strip brought to life. And the result is really rather charming.
Much of the credit for this must go to Eriko Satô who, as the DVD cover loudly proclaims, is Japan’s top swimsuit model. She’s not just a pretty face, though, and displays some excellent comic timing that manages to make her character both genuinely funny and remarkably likeable. Granted, there are a couple of scenes that explicitly draw your attention to the fact that the lead actress is a swimsuit model, but even these are more funny than anything else — seeing Eriko Satô running through Tokyo in a bin bag is about as far as it goes.
The two co-stars also deserve a mention. Mikako Ichikawa as tough as nails detective, Natsuko Aki, brings some real soul to the film and provides just enough heft to its underlying theme of friendship. Jun Murakami as journalist, Seiji throws a little mystery into the mix without getting in the way of the two women at the heart of the film.
The special effects, it has to be said,, are a bit ropey at times. Rather than being a distraction, though, this both adds to the charm of the film and enhances it’s live action anime feel.
With it’s over-the-top villains, bonkers fight scenes and genuine sense of fun, Cutie Honey is a relentlessly cheerful and genuinely enjoyable film. For all the silliness, it’s hard not to get carried away by Honey’s boundless optimism and, while the film will never win any awards, it is an undeniably fun way to spend a couple of hours.