Volume 1 of a 2-volume version of Nagai's 1973 Cutie Honey manga, published by Akita Shoten
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Magical girl|
|Original run||October 1, 1973 – April 1, 1974|
|Original run||October 13, 1973 – March 30, 1974|
|Magazine||Boken Oh, Bessatsu Boken Oh|
|Original run||November 1973 – May 1974|
|Magazine||TV Magazine, Nakayoshi|
|Original run||October 1973 – February 1974|
|Original run||November 1973 – March 1974|
|Cutie Honey 90s|
|Original run||July 8, 1992 – April 7, 1993|
Cutie Honey (キューティーハニー Kyūtī Hanī , also spelled Cutey Honey) is a Japanese media franchise created by Go Nagai. Cutie Honey first appears on volume 41 of the 1973 edition of Shōnen Champion. According to Nagai, she is the first female to be the protagonist of a shōnen manga series.
The franchise spans many works, including numerous manga series, two animated TV series, two OVA series, two drama CDs, and two live action adaptations. The first anime, aired in 1973, is considered a magical girl series in retrospect. The animated and live-action versions share a common theme song, which has been covered many times by different performers. While Honey's exact appearance differs among the various versions, they all portray her as an outwardly ordinary girl named Honey Kisaragi, who can transform into the busty, red or pink-haired heroine Cutie Honey and other specialized forms to fight against assorted villains who threaten her or her world. One of the trademarks of the character is that all of these transformations involve the temporary loss of all her clothing in the brief interim from changing from one form to the other.
Nagai's inspiration for the character of Honey comes from classic shows that featured protagonists who took seven different forms, including the Bannai Tarao mysteries and Rainbowman (1972). Honey is notable for being mischievous for a Japanese female hero, often teasing her male friends and mocking her enemies in combat. When transforming into Cutie Honey, she gives a brief rundown of the forms she has previously taken in that particular episode, and then declares, "But my true identity is ..." before yelling "Honey Flash!" and transforming.
The original works of the franchise were a TV series and two different manga series. One manga was made by Go Nagai and the other by Ken Ishikawa. Nagai's 1973 manga was republished in 1985 as a single volume, but no further versions of Honey were produced until 1992. While Nagai's manga was marketed as "SFコミックス" ("science fiction comics"), the Toei anime is considered, at least in retrospect, a magical girl series.
In these versions, Honey Kisaragi is a regular Catholic schoolgirl, until the day her father is murdered by the "Panther Claw" organization. After his death, she learns she is actually an android created by him and within her is a device that can "create matter from the air" (空中元素固定装置 kūchū genso kotei sôchi, variously translated as "[atmospheric] element condenser mechanism", "Fixed System of Air Elements", "Airborne Element Solidifier", etc.). With her cry of "Honey Flash!" she can use the device to transform into the sword-wielding red-haired superhero, Cutie Honey. This device, or similar devices, have been used to explain her powers in all later Honey versions.
While attending the Saint Chapel School for Girls, Honey seeks revenge against the Panther Claw, which is ruled by an ancient primordial evil known as Panther Zora and her younger sibling Sister Jill. Zora wants "the rarest items in the world" and seeks Honey's device, while Jill, leader of the group's division in Japan, "only wants the finest riches" and has a crush on Honey. Honey's best friend at school is the cute, freckle-faced Aki "Nat-chan" Natsuko. In the manga, Nat-chan, as well as the other students, had a crush on Honey; this crush was downplayed in the TV series.
Honey is aided in her quest by Danbei Hayami and his two sons, journalist Seiji and young Junpei. Danbei is based on the character Daemon from Go Nagai's prior work Abashiri Family. Nagai's manga also borrows the character Naojiro from that series (in a female form named Sukeban Naoko); the anime borrows the Paradise School, along with the characters Naojiro and Goeman (a teacher at the school) from the series.
The Cutie Honey TV series began on October 13, 1973 and ran until March 30, 1974. The TV series is much tamer than the manga version, removing much of the violence, gross out humor and lesbian undertones but retaining Miss Alphonne's attraction to Honey.
Originally, Cutie Honey was meant to be a shōjo series like the later Cutie Honey Flash, focusing more on Honey and Shun Kazama (Seiji)'s relationship and lacking any nudity or excessive violence. A great deal of merchandising was initially planned, such as 'changing' dolls of Honey. The manga was slated to run in the monthly Ribbon magazine, and the series was set to air at 7:00 on NET TV, a timeslot previously held by mahō shōjo (magical girl) series. However, the timeslot was given to Miracle Shōjo Limit-Chan (which garnered poor ratings) and Cutie Honey was going to air on the hour show, Majū Kaijin Daihenshin!!! which previously aired Micord S and Devilman. Because of this, Cutie Honey was now going to be a shōnen (young boys') series, making it the first magical girl series for boys. To make it appeal to a young male audience, more action was added and Go Nagai proposed to draw Honey nude during her transformations.
In the series, Honey Kisaragi is a 16-year-old girl who discovers she is a super android after her father is killed by Panther Claw. The Panther Claw hopes to attain "unlimited wealth" and to steal the device within Honey created by her father, which would allow them to "create an endless supply of jewels".
At school, Honey is something of a "class clown" who enjoys teasing and pranking her teachers Alphonne and Miharu. Much of the comic relief in the original TV series comes from Honey's exploits at school. Miharu initially sees Honey as an incorrigible pest, but Alphonne is attracted to Honey and goes out of her way to be nice to her.
Honey is aided by the Hayami family in her battle. The eldest son, Seiji, is the first person to discover Honey's secret. He meets Honey by chance, and swears to help her. His father Danbei and brother Junpei also grow very fond of Honey. Later in the series, Honey meets Danbei's nephew Naojiro. He is the "boss" of Paradise School, a low-life school filled with delinquent boys. Honey joins the school and becomes the new "boss".
Honey has a large array of transformations in this series, her most common personae including:
In 1992, Nagai wrote that the idea to create the "Seven Transformations" hero was pitched by a Toei producer; he notes that his decision to make the protagonist a "female android" came from female characters from his previous works, Harenchi Gakuen and Abashiri Family, and from the character Maria from Metropolis.
Outside of Japan, the only country in which the original Cutie Honey TV series was released was France, where it aired under the title Cherry Miel ("Cherry Honey") from August 1988 to February 1989.
For a television anime series, the original Cutie Honey achieved respectable ratings in Japan, and some of its cast and crew have worked on other major titles. The series achieved a peak rating of 11.6% for episode 18 (broadcast February 11, 1974) and generally scored ratings of around 8-10%. Shingo Araki, the character designer and animation director for the series, would later work on Saint Seiya and many others. Eiko Masuyama, who voices Honey in this series, has also worked in Lupin III series and films, voicing Lupin's associate and love (or lust) interest Fujiko Mine. Masaki Tsuji, the series' chief writer, scripted episodes of numerous other filmed works (both anime and otherwise), including Attack No. 1, Urusei Yatsura, Go Nagai's previous Devilman, Sally, the Witch, and Dr. Slump, and is also a published science-fiction writer.
The first new versions of Cutie Honey since the 1970s include the New Cutie Honey OVA and the Cutie Honey Flash TV series. The OVA is set after the events of the original versions, while the TV series is a re-imagining of those events.
A 1992 manga series was also created by Nagai; set 30 years after the originals, it was released in the United States in 1997 by the now-defunct Studio Ironcat, as Cutie Honey '90. It has received criticism for having "bad quality" and "clumsy"-looking characters.
In 1994, New Cutie Honey was released. Jessica Calvello, the voice of Honey in the English language version, was hand-picked by Nagai. The series, which ended with eight episodes in 1995, pays homage to some of Nagai's other works, including the Mazinger and Devilman series. While the first four episodes contain a complete story, the last four episodes take a monster of the week approach. When the series was released on DVD in 2004, a scripted but unfilmed episode 9, a Christmas story, was released as a drama CD. The eight filmed episodes were released by ADV Films in the United States; the series remains the only Cutie Honey anime to be commercially released in the US.
In 1997, a shōjo Cutie Honey series, known as Cutie Honey Flash or Cutie Honey F, assumed the timeslot of Sailor Stars, the final story arc of the long-running Sailor Moon anime. Employing many of the same animation staff, including Stars animation director Miho Shimagasa, Flash features very similar character designs and fits the more traditional mold of magical girl series, aimed at the Moon demographic. The series was also broadcast in Germany.
Honey has a large array of transformations in this series as well, including versions of her original forms Hurricane Honey and Cutie Honey. All the characters from the original TV series return, with the exception of Junpei, Naojiro, and the staff of Paradise School. The anime also introduces Misty Honey, a rival and self-proclaimed younger sister of Cutie Honey, whose name was chosen through a contest in Japan. Cutie Honey Flash uses hand-drawn animation; according to Shimagasa, the use of digitally-animated characters on hand-painted backgrounds was planned and tested, but later rejected.
Cutie Honey works produced since 2000 include the franchise's first live-action versions (a 2004 film and a 2007 TV series) and an OVA.
Several new manga versions have also been produced. The first, Cutie Honey, the legend of an angel (キューティーハニー天女伝説 kyūtī hanī tennyo densetsu , lit. Legend of the Tennyo), ran from 2001 to 2003. The second, Cutie Honey a Go Go! (キューティーハニー a Go Go! Kyūtī Hanī a Go Go ), ran from 2003 to 2005; it was not fully released until October 2007. The third, Cutie Honey Seed (キューティーハニーSEED Kyūtī Hanī Shīdo ), ran from 2004 to 2006; it was "written by Go Nagai, but not drawn by him", and tells the story of a boy named Yuuta, a Cutie Honey fan, who meets an alien with powers similar to those of Honey.
The 2004 Cutie Honey film, produced by Gainax and directed by Hideaki Anno, stars popular Japanese model Eriko Sato as Honey. The tokusatsu (live-action) film loosely retells the story of Cutie Honey's battle against the Panther Claw to defend humanity and avenge her father. The movie was released direct-to-DVD in the United States on April 17, 2007 by Bandai Entertainment. Previously, the New Cutie Honey OVA was the only incarnation of Cutie Honey to have been commercially released in the US.
Gainax also produced Re: Cutie Honey, a three-episode OVA series. It was first shown on Animax, with the first episode airing on July 24, 2004, two months after the live-action film was released. DVD releases for each episode followed, with the first on September 21. The OVA tells the same story as the film, but contains nudity and additional character development. While Hideaki Anno directed the series in general, each episode also had its own director and the three episodes differed in style.
A live-action TV remake, Cutie Honey The Live, premiered on TV Tokyo on October 2, 2007. Starring gravure idol Mikie Hara as Honey, the series focuses on a set of three transforming girls with different personalities, and a Panther Claw run by four leaders.
The Cutie Honey opening theme, which appears throughout all of the Honey anime and live-action versions, is known for its lyrics by Kurōdo Kyū (クロード・Ｑ?, lit. "Claude Q") describing Honey and her body. The 1973 series' theme, originally intended for Linda Yamamoto to perform, was sung by Yoko Maekawa. In Cutie Honey Flash, it is performed by SALIA. In the New Cutie Honey OVA, the original song is performed by les-5-4-3-2-1, and the English language version by Mayukiss. Kumi Koda performed it for the Re: Cutie Honey OVA and its live-action adaptation. In Cutie Honey The Live, the theme is sung by Minami Kuribayashi as part of Wild 3-Nin Musume. The only other anime theme songs to have been used so consistently are Theme of Lupin III, which has been used continuously on Lupin III animated features since the 70s, and the GeGeGe no Kitaro theme song, used since the 60s.
Other artists have also covered the song, including GO!GO!7188 for their Tora no Ana album, Masami Okui in the Masami Kobushi album, and a version by TWO-MIX. Animetal also did a cover of the song for their Animetal Lady album, with the lyrics sung by Mitsuyo Nemoto of the Japanese pop group Pink Lady. Pop star Ahyoomee's solo debut was a Korean adaptation of Koda's version; it became highly popular online, despite controversy over her pronunciation of the lyrics and her "unambiguously Japanese" outfit in one performance. Harp player Mika Agematsu covered the theme—and songs from Lupin III, Candy Candy, and others—in her album Anipa (UCCS-1088); it was released by Universal Music in June 2006 in Japan, and in February 2009 in the United States.
The song can also be heard during episode 27 of the 1974 magical girl TV series Majokko Megu-chan, when the main character Megu watches Honey, in her pop idol persona (Misty Honey), perform it on TV. In the seventh episode of the 2006 series Princess Princess, the Princesses also perform it, singing a few lines from the theme for an opening to a choir concert.
A "self cover" CD, Cutie Honey (21st century ver.), with new versions of the opening and ending themes by Maekawa herself, was released on February 27, 2008.
Since its creation in the 1970s, Cutie Honey and its heroine have been referenced and parodied in various works by Nagai and others.
Honey appears as a secondary character in Nagai's Violence Jack manga. There, Honey is the younger sister of Ryou Asuka and is living in New York City. When she hears of the earthquake that devastated Kantō, Honey and several of her friends go to Japan to search for Ryou, who has become the pet of the Slum King. Honey's friends are alternate universe versions of her transformations in the 1973 series:
In the last volume, Flash, Misty, and Cutie are killed when they fall into a spiked trap when they try to free a chained up Miki Makimura. Honey is electrocuted when she tries to rescue Ryou from the Slum King. Idol, Fancy, and Hurricane die in an explosion. The spirits of the seven women come together to form Angel Honey, whom Ryou sees in his dreams. When Ryou returns to his true form, as Satan, he fights in his sister's memory.
Honey makes an appearance in the OVA adaptation of Kekkō Kamen as a student; her lesbian teacher from the 1973 TV series, Alphonne, also makes two brief appearances there. In episode 50 of UFO Robot Grendizer, Seiji Hayami appears taking pictures in a crowd. This scene also featured cameos by Hayato from Getter Robot and Babel II from Babel II. In the Japanese opening of Super Milk Chan, there are moments that directly parody the 1973 series' opening sequence.
A strategy video game, Majokko Daisakusen: Little Witching Mischiefs, was developed by Toys For Bob and released by Bandai in 1999, and features Cutie Honey and other magical girls. An RPG, Legend of Dynamic Goushouden: Houkai no Rondo, was developed and released by Banpresto in 2003, and features Honey and other characters created by Nagai.