Cutie Honey (Japan 2004)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/2/05
Cast: Eriko Sato, Mikako Ichikawa

Go Nagai's sexy android superheroine gets the live action treatment in this wonderfully enjoyable romp starring Japanese fashion model Eriko Sato. Kisaragi Honey is a cheerful but air-headed young woman with a naive mind and a heart of gold. She's also a highly advanced android who can transform into the crime fighting superheroine, Cutie Honey. When the wicked Panther Claw syndicate kidnaps Cutie's uncle, she's determined to rescue him. Unfortunately, she clashes with police detective Natsuko Aki (adorable Mikako Ichikawa) who is also working on the case, and whose personality is exactly the opposite of Cutie's. Eventually they team up to put the Panther Claw clan out of business, and the power of love saves the day.

First of all, the two leading ladies are absolutely wonderful. I was very impressed with Eriko Sato, who is actually a very good actress and can effectively and effortlessly go from cute and bubbly to sad and despondent to mean and vengeful at a moment's notice. Her cheerfulness is infectious and her enthusiastic performance perfectly complements the campiness of the material. She alone makes the movie work, and you simply can't help smiling while watching her. She's also totally hot and her outfits are very sexy. But even so, her rival Mikako Ichikawa nearly steals the show from her with her headstrong bitchiness and aggressive posturing all wrapped up in an uptight shell of frail feminine beauty. She's fantastic, and oh so cute! (and she carries a gun, I might add...) The villains are all flamboyant and way over the top in typical Japanese fashion, and one of them even breaks out in a musical number before his showdown with Cutie Honey. The visual effects are mostly tacky, but effective at getting the job done. The action choreography is about what you'd expect from a production like this, which isn't much. The film is very silly and whimsical, and the main focus is on Cutie's innocent charms, sexy outfits, and stylish poses. But she also has a message about the importance of love and living, which is reinforced by Natsuko's sad and lonely existence. If only we could all follow Cutie Honey's example to love everyone and cherish life, this world would be a much better place.

Notes on the domestic release: In a typical American marketing blunder, Bandai America decided to replace the awesome original Japanese artwork featuring Eriko Sato with a picture of some random Asian girl with pink hair. Did they think that no one would notice or care?!? Now, I've come to expect this type of awful packaging from companies like Media Blasters (just look what they did to the "Gun Crazy" and "Sukeban Deka" films!) and American B-movies in general, but when the American publisher is the same as the Japanese publisher, there's absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. Could Bandai America not get Bandai Japan to let them use the original marketing material for some unfathomable reason? I was tempted to just stick with my original fan-sub as a result of this blatant offense. Another thing about the packaging that made me scream in anguish is that nowhere on the box does it mention that it is subtitled, stating only that it's the English language version. Had I seen that in a store, there's NO WAY I would have bought it. Fortunately (perhaps just a fluke?), the online retailers mention that it features the original Japanese soundtrack in addition to the English dub (which in fact, it does). Again, another instance of Bandai America alienating and disrespecting the only audience that would be interested in getting their hands on this film. Unacceptable. I guess the only consolation is that the film got a domestic release at all.