Cutie Honey: Tears (Japan 2016)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/27/18
Cast: Mariya Nishiuchi, Nicole Ishida

Go Nagai's android heroine gets a dark and serious reboot that places her in a dystopian future, plagued by pollution and overpopulation. Massive vertical cities are built, where the rich and powerful elite live in the bright and sunny upper levels, and the poor and disenchanted live in the dark and dreary lower levels. Naturally, the waste generated by the wealthy is dumped on the less fortunate, which poisons their air and water. Hidden among the unfortunate ones is Hitomi Kisaragi (Mariya Nishiuchi), an android who has been on the run for twenty years. She holds the key to the city's salvation, and an evil android named Jill (Nicole Ishida) wants that power for herself. Hitomi eventually teams up with a group of resistance fighters to put an end to Jill's schemes, but will her android heart be strong enough to save humankind?

It's an entertaining piece of science fiction fluff, and even though the presentation is full of danger, dread, and despair, a subtle undercurrent of optimism and hope keeps it from being totally depressing. Visually, it attempts to mirror the aesthetics of "Blade Runner" (1982) and "The Fifth Element" (1997), and while it looks nice, obvious budget constraints keep it from reaching its full potential. There's a decent amount of action in the film, but the execution is poor and the editing cuts away from EVERY hit, which dramatically diminishes the cinematic impact. The results look disappointingly amateurish, and fail to convey the strength and power that Hitomi is supposed to have. However, the biggest gripe I have is about the overly shaky handheld camera work, which is pointless, unnecessary, and infuriating to watch.

Singer Mariya Nishiuchi is pretty and gives a solid, but unremarkable performance as Cutie Honey. Unfortunately, she lacks presence and charisma, but perhaps her smooth and expressionless face was exactly what the filmmakers had in mind to represent an android. Nicole Ishida, on the other hand, crackles with intense energy and wicked sensuality. She's insanely pretty, despite her awful wardrobe and hideous blue eyeliner. Nishiuchi seems stiff and uncomfortable in her action scenes, but moves and emotes flawlessly when she mimics a fashion model. Shoe continuity is also a major problem, but since Hitomi's body is made of shape-shifting nanomachines, maybe she intentionally changes her heel height from scene to scene? Overall, "Cutie Honey: Tears" is a surprising departure and a satisfying reinvention of the character. Its biggest drawbacks are a lack of charm from Cutie Honey herself, and the weak action choreography.