So here we are with the first recap of Cutie Honey the Live! If you haven’t read my prologue yet, I strongly recommend you do to get an idea of what kind of show we’re dealing with here. It’s no secret that I adore the hell out of this show and Cutie Honey in general, but we’re going to take a critical look at each episode of this series to show its strength’s as well as its weaknesses. Will the first episode suffer from a lot of mistakes that tend to drag down most pilot episodes, or will the rich history that came before this show help to ensure its brought to us fully formed right off the bat? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with a series of prison breaks across multiple jails in Japan. It seems that one criminal from each prison was given a mysterious weapon and are now using it to escape. The prisoners don’t seem to have a clue as to why they have these science fiction laser blasters, so someone else seems to be pulling the strings for some presumably nefarious purpose.
It’s a pretty well done sequence, though the overly dramatic violins they used for the music do the exact opposite of what it’s intended to do, though this show is ultimately a comedy so maybe the unsubtle soundtrack is simply an intentional subversion rather than a poorly done dramatic accompaniment. What the hell was I talking about? Oh right! After this scene (and the opening credits), we cut to the next day where a young woman is looking to use the services of the Hayami Detective Agency. This is probably a very poor decision because Hayami appears to live in a shack under the bridge.
Hayami is a character who’s appeared in every version of the Cutie Honey franchise and most depict him as either a journalist or a detective who helps Cutie Honey in her fight against Panther Claw. In this version, he is a broke as hell private detective who CHOOSES to live this way so that he can use his experience helping the poor to write his master thesis on Japanese capitalism. They’re definitely making him sillier than most other versions of the character (and a hell of a lot poorer) but the actor still has his moments to give him some intelligence that belie his goofy persona. The woman who comes by asking for Hayami’s help is Nana and she came to have him locate her older brother who turns out to be one of the three criminals who broke out jail last night (Jirou). It turns out that several years ago he killer her fiancé and she’s worried for her own safety but is also worried about what will happen to her brother. The dynamic duo go to see Jirou’s lawyer to see if he’s been in contact since the prison break and to get more details about the case. Oh, and in between these scenes of Hayami and Nana doing their investigation, we randomly cut back to a high school where a bunch of girls in their underwear are getting medical checkups and the camera objectifies the HELL out of them.
And no, it DOESN’T help to know that they’re all obviously in the mid-twenties. It’s completely pointless and takes time away from what’s actually interesting in this episode. Anyway, Hayami and Nana are at the lawyer’s office and he gives the two of them some more details about the murder case. Apparently the fiancé was found dead in a parking lot with a knife sticking out of his back. There were no fingerprints on the knife, but Jirou confessed to the crime. Uh huh. Interesting…
Nana actually does explain that her brother was REALLY into her so we at least have a plausible motive for why he killer the guy. Still. I’ve got my eye on her!! We cut to some dude who’s auditioning for the Free movie and starts talking to himself once he’s out of the pool. The guy seems to have a split personality where one side of him acts like a suave businessman and the other side acts like a petulant child.
The dude clearly has something to do with the prisoner’s escaping and is most likely a member of Panther Claw, the evil organization in every version of Cutie Honey. We get confirmation of this when he starts skyping with a guy who’s video feed is reflected off the swimming pool, and you can see the Panther Claw logo in the corner. Wait, that sentence sounded a bit off.
I don’t THINK this technology is outside the realm of possibility (especially in a show about an ass kicking robot), but it seems a wee bit excessive, don’t you think? Also, the other guy can see our Panther Claw dude, so where the hell is the camera!? WHAT IF THE GUY WAS LOUNGING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POOL!? The meeting basically boils down to the old guy checking in on Panther Claw dude to find out if there is any update to their plan. Panther Claw dude lets the old guy (Suzuki) know that nothing has happened yet, but he’ll be updated accordingly. I’m not sure WHY Suzuki needs to check in on Panther Claw dude considering he has a constant update on the status of the three prisoners on the next tab of his web browser.
We also find out that two other people are looking in on this website so I’m guessing it’s a game to see who will last the longest on the outside before either getting caught or getting killed. Seriously! WHY DO RICH ASSHOLES HAVE TO DO THIS KIND OF CRAZY SHIT!? Is poker too boring!? We cut to one of the criminals (not sure which one but it’s not Jirou) who gets found by a bunch of cops and proceeds to shoot them with his laser gun thingy. Unfortunately, the criminal gets shot during his escape and runs into an ally. The Panther Claw dude and a bunch of his minions in cleaning outfits find the guy and tell him game over. The gun stops working, the cleanup crew surround him, and in a matter of seconds they’ve chopped him up and packed him into tiny boxes.
The show is doing a pretty good job at showing how menacing Panther’s Claw can be. Not only are they the one’s responsible for letting the criminals escape, but they’re also controlling every move they make and stop them when they can no longer serve a purpuse. You always want a strong villain or villainous group for the hero to utterly decimate every episode, and so far Panther’s Claw is doing just that. We cut back to Hayami and Nana who are investigating the crime scene to see if they can find any clues. The crime scene from the murder that happened years ago. Okay… what exactly is Hayami expecting to find here? Does he REALLY think that JIrou would go back to the scene of the crime? WHAT FOR!? He’d be after Nana, if anything else! Wait, Jirou DOES return to the scene of the crime!? Maybe Hayami IS the world’s greatest detective! Jirou proceeds to crack Hayami across the skull with a lead pipe and after that, he starts to fawn over Nana who tries to tell him to turn himself in and to stop being a menace to society and to her. Then a bunch of cops come out of nowhere and chase after Jirou who then forces Nana and Hayami’s unconscious body into Hayami’s car (he can afford one?) and peels off. While in the car, we get the big twist that was IMPOSSIBLE to see coming!
That’s right! Nana was the one who killed her fiancé and took advantage of Jirou’s creepy love of her to get him to take the rap! Not only that, but she’s completely psychotic and just stabs Jirou in the stomach while the guy is trying to drive! Inconsiderate much!? Hayami wakes up just as the blood starts to spill and starts to freak the fuck out! Luckily for him though, Jirou has to stop the car and it’s immediately accosted by several police officers. Okay, maybe not so lucky because they arrest his sorry ass too.
Just then, a whole bunch of Panther Claw goons come out and start to kill off all the cops as well as Jirou. Okay then! Hayami got a lucky break again! No wait, they’re coming after him too, though they completely ignore Nana who’s already run off. Honestly, considering how long these guys are taking to not only take out the cops, I gotta figure this is Panther Claw’s B team. Hell, they’re practically letting two witnesses get away! Hayami runs for it and makes a phone call along the way. Remember all those creepy scenes of teenage girls in gym shorts? Well one of them answers their phone and Hayami yells at her to save him from becoming minced meat. Gee, I wonder who this could be!?
That’s right! The titular hero of this story, Honey Kisaragi, just booked her ass halfway across town to save this dude’s sorry ass!! Now that we’re formally introduced to the character, we can see where this show deviates from most of the other versions of this character. Honey is a fucking idiot.
Now admittedly this is probably the worst episode for her in terms of intelligence (she DOES get smarter over time) but after watching the other versions of the franchise, I can say that this interpretation of the character is by far the weakest. In almost every other version of this character, Honey had a full childhood and a life before finding out she was a robot which usually coincides with the death of her father. This means that Honey herself, despite being a robot, has lived as a human and only now discovers what she can do with these powers. The more recent shows though seem to instead prefer to have Honey JUST coming out of the damn laboratory (or within a year or two of that happening) so that they can use her “naiveté” to push the sexy by accident angle. I still LIKE the Honey Kisaragi in this show, but her flaws are very apparent in this first episode and definitely show themselves throughout the series. She’s at her best when she’s selflessly noble and caring (ala Goku) but can really make the show unbearable when she’s used as an oblivious sexual object. Anyway, a cop shows up out of nowhere and tries to play Billy Badass by telling half dozen or so guys in mask to put up their hands. Naturally, the guy can’t even land a hit and gets taken out by a surprisingly badass combo move from two of the henchmen. One does a backflip to knock the guy’s gun out of his hand while the other does Liu Kang’s bicycle kick before they both stab the hapless bastard.
Our hero realizes that shit has just gotten real and transforms into her super powered alter ego! Unfortunately, it looks pretty bad.
If you’re not aware of one of the staples of the Cutie Honey franchise, it’s that the transformation sequences take longer than usual and tend to strip the character naked briefly before putting the new outfit on. As you can see above though, it looks awful and the amount of lousy CG they put on top of it to make it acceptable for television is really distracting. Thankfully, this is probably the most gratuitous the transformation sequences get in this series, and the rest tend to be two or three seconds instead of the full twenty seconds of terrible looking not-nudity we get here. Once she does turn into her alter ego though, the show picks up DRAMATICALLY and becomes the most amazing thing ever! The gang tries to take her out, but they’re no match for her Kung Fu skills!
The choreography in this show is very reminiscent of Super Sentai, especially with the henchmen going COMPLETELY over the top with everything. This one dude tries to do a flying jump kick while Cutie Honey is standing next to a GIANT flight of stairs. Let’s see how well THAT works out!
How about this one guy who bounces off her boobs and sells it like a cannonball to the skull?
All seems to be going well for our Robotic hero until the Panther Claw dude with the split personalities joins the fight. He’s got this weird power where his hands turn into razor sharp wings that can apparently cut through anything. Also, his Kung Fu is much stronger than Cutie Honey’s.
While these two are fighting, we see that Suzuki has in fact won the game and that Nana has since been caught by some Panther Claw dudes and is presumably now in little boxes along with everyone else who was unfortunate enough not to know a cyborg badass to protect them. We get to see Suzuki’s prize which is… really uncomfortable actually.
Yeah, not only is his prize kind of skeevy, it’s odd to see some ACTUAL nudity here when in the previous scene they spent half a minute trying DESPERATELY to hide nudity on a woman who was running around naked. Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this show!? Back at the fight, things aren’t looking too good for our hero as she repeatedly gets knocked on her ass by the guy with wing fingers. Will she survive this encounter with Panther Claw and live to fight another day!? Obviously, but the show leaves us on a cliffhanger as to whether or not Cutie Honey will get out of this alive!
I’ve stated in other places that pilots are incredibly hard to make and are usually thankless tasks. A show HAS to start somewhere and while there’s plenty that can be done in pre-production, certain aspects cannot be perfected until the creators have a bit of experience making the show with these characters. This is definitely the case here where they spend way too much time on the sexuality and perverted scenes that it detracts greatly from what they do so right in the episode. I’m a sucker for a show with crazy over the top fight scenes and the one at the end of this episode is fantastically done, even if it is clear they are still figuring out the choreography (some of the punches miss by a mile). Hayami has his moments to be more than just the comic relief character you expect him to be, and the whole mystery (while not that complex) is well done and surprisingly dark for a show that is this high energy. Panther Claw as well is excellently portrayed in this episode with plenty of menace at first to give them significant weight and power in this universe, and enough goofiness later to make it incredibly satisfying to watch them get torn to shreds. This first episode is not very good and can definitely turn plenty of people off of the show (it’s probably the most glaringly flawed episode of the series) but it does have moments here and there to show us what this series is capable of if it has enough time to work out the kinks. Hopefully the next episode will build off of what was good in this one and bring us closer to turning this into a great show instead of merely a novel oddity.