If you ask an outsider to describe what Anime is like, you’ll likely hear a description along the lines of: “spiky haired super-deformed characters screaming at each other on a scrolling blue background intercut with shots of monsters, robots and giant bouncing breasts”. While this huge generalization might enrage the avid Anime fan, they wouldn’t be terribly far off in the case of New Cutey Honey. It has all the above stereotypes in full effect. Shows like this are a guilty pleasure. They are low brow, high octane guilty pleasures that are exactly what one’s over sophisticated palette needs to cleanse itself before diving into the next Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece.
As with most Anime from the early 90’s, the plot sounds absolutely absurd when written down. New Cutey Honey centers around Honey Kisaragi, the secretary to Mayor of troubled Cosplay city (I know, I know) who, with the help of a perverted aging cyborg and a little boy, discovers that she is actually a 100 year old Android with the super powers. She then uses her newly discovered abilities to transform into various scantily clad forms to defeat the criminal elements threatening the city. To really fully understand the weird cocktail of sexuality, monsters and violence that is New Cutey Honey, you need to first understand it’s creator, Go Nagai. He’s the guy who brought the world the crazy popular Giant Mecha and Magical Girl genres. In the founding years of Manga and Anime he was a rebel and was into some
super weird shit interesting things and you can see it all over NCH. It has all his favorite elements, like; questionably aged half naked girls, mecha suits, absurdly muscular villains, beast-women, post-apocalyptic backdrops and of course the dirty old man.
What I like about this show, well, other than the obvious is that its honest with itself. The creators knew when they were making it that it was going to be cheesecake show and they made no attempt to hide it. So much so that they even poke fun at the absurdity of her nude transformations in scenes like; her embarrassment over her friends walking in on her mid-transformation in OVA 2 or remaining naked for a moment on the hood of a car after an unexpectedly interrupted transformation in OVA 5. Even the lyrics of the opening credits theme song sets you up for the breast-fest that follows. Every conceivable opportunity to show skin is taken: obligatory shower scenes, battle damaged clothes,
naked ass magical transformations, you name it they try it. As the practiced anime fan knows fanservice come not just in T&A form, the hardcore Go Nagai fan will spot tons of little fan nods to his previous work tucked into NCH like the lovingly recreated intro shots from the 70s intro and the various character cameos from the manga and TV series.
ADV Films originally translated this series and brought it into the states and like most Anime dubs of the time, the dialogue has some hilarious wording and delivery. Lines like “I’m just a simple Lord of darkness”, “They’re building crazed mutants a lot tougher these days” and “Gold Digger’s Golden Shower” come to mind. There is one rewrite that they did do that is so bad-ass that it almost apologizes for the dub related horrors of the rest of this series. “If you ever need a devil, you’ll always know where to find me” from he Akira Fudo (Devilman) cameo at the end of episode 7. The english dub cast is a whos-who of 90s anime voices and features ADV regulars like Jessica Calvello, Tiffany Grant & Jason Douglas. The story and characters are seriously underwritten and while I totally would I have liked to have seen more screen time spent on her backstory as an Android and her relationship with her surrogate family, I understand that this is a half hour cheesecake show and you gotta save time for the sweets!
There is a very thin line between fanservice and pornography and New Cutey Honey drunkenly stumbles down on both sides of it as it marches its way to an abrupt finish. So what if it heavily panders a certain demographic and its pretty soft in the story department. All the skin time is pretty harmless. It’s sexless and playful and never treads into the dark lands of gratuitous and degrading where so many Anime series have before. Its a fun watch, especially more so if your a Go Nagai fan.
NOTE The screencaps are from the recently remastered and rereleased Japanese import Blu-Ray edition of New Cutey Honey. The highres rescan of the original is gorgous and almost shocking how vivid the line work and colors are after decades of living with only fuzzy VHS and DVD transfer. Its definitely the best way to experience this classic, as long as you don’t mind missing out on the classic ADV dub, since it only includes the original Japanese.