We’re back with everyone’s favorite adaptation of questionable source material! When we last left our hero, she was fighting for her life against one of the leaders of Panther Claw and was about to receive the killing blow! The first episode was decent enough as pilots go, but now that they’ve sold us on the idea of what this show could be, they have to make good on that potential. Does this episode meet those expectations and give us something worth watching, or is the novelty already wearing off this soon? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Cutie Honey continuing her life and death struggle against the Panther Claw dude with the feather hand. At the last minute, good old Hayami shows up with his car to provide Honey with a perfect escape!
I actually really like this scene because it gives Hayami a chance to do something and prove that he’s more than Cutie’s sad sack buddy and can really be a big help in times of need. After the opening credits, we cut to Hayami’s shit hole of an office where Honey is sleeping off her recent defeat. She doesn’t let it get her down though and vows to do better in the future. Honey Kisuragi in this show definitely embodies that Goku ideal in that she’s always trying to do what’s right and never lets anything bother her for too long. This aspect of her can go back and forth between being a strength or a weakness to her character, but here I think it works. I’ve never been a fan of mopey heroes (DARKNESS!! NO PARENTS!!) so having someone who’s just happy to be alive to try again later is quite pleasant and encouraging for the rest of show. We need more optimism in our lives!! After Honey’s awakening, Hayami’s homeless friends come bursting in bearing gifts of freshly deep fried meat to help our wounded hero recuperate!
Just like Sherlock Holmes, it seems that Hayami makes use of the homeless network through Japan in order to get information for jobs he’s working on, and the big one right now is figuring out who the hell those guys were that nearly took both him and Honey out for good. While Hayami is out investigating, Honey is back at school and… well she’s not what I would call “dignified” when it comes to interacting with other people.
Again, this all goes back to the change in Honey’s character in recent iterations of this franchise. The last time they did it right was in Honey Flash which was a series that aired in the late 90s and was clearly trying to go after the Sailor Moon market. The Honey in that one was popular, did well in school, and was admired for her fencing skills even before she became a super hero who primarily used a sword. In this version, well…
But you know, that on its own isn’t necessarily the problem. There’s something to be said about the lasting appeal of characters like Goku and Monkey D Luffy who are outright morons in their own sense. Honey in this isn’t STUPID, she just seems to lack social grace for some reason (wouldn’t the professor who made her have thought to include something like that?) and ends up doing things that others find annoying or embarrassing. The problem is that while I guess you COULD say that Monkey and Goku are objectified in SOME way, the clear intent with Honey in this was nothing BUT objectification. She’s infantilized and robbed of any of those “human” emotions that can get in the way of being an object of idealization. You can like Honey in this (I certainly do) but this is one of those things you have to be aware of when it comes to female representation in media. This attitude towards crafting female characters is far too prevalent and is in no way comparable to how men are treated in similar shows. Anyway, Honey ends up getting the ire of one girl who tries to convince Honey’s only real friend at school (Natsuko) into turning traitor for a piece of jewelry. Okay… well Natsuko rejects the offer which pisses off the one girl (Youko) to no end! Of course, Honey comes out of nowhere, sees the shiny object, and Youko takes advantage of the situation to convince Honey to embarrass herself further.
See? I wasn’t completely talking out of my ass back there. Modesty? Well that would mean we WOULDN’T get to see Mikie Hara’s legs! Still though, this is a pretty poor strategy on Youko’s part considering she’s ALREADY doing embarrassing things without a second thought. What did you hope to accomplish here? Natusko is worried about Honey’s complete inability to know when others are intentionally bullying her, but is also noticing that Youko is acting strange as well. The jewelry that she was willing to give Natusko isn’t the first big ticket item she bought recently. In fact, she’s been on an endless shopping spree in the last few days in an effort to get everyone at school to become her friend. Where exactly did she get this recent influx of cash? Well we get to find out because we see that Youko has a bag that’s just filled to the brim with money, but when she opens it one night, it starts to spray poisonous gas and she dies no the spot! I WONDER WHO COULD POSSIBLY BE INVOLVED IN THIS!?
The homeless network’s research bears fruit in the form of identifying Panther Claw as the group who attacked Honey and Hayami, and it doesn’t take them long to suspect that they may have been involved in Youko’s mysterious death. Honey also finds out that one of Hayami’s homeless contacts has recently started throwing massive parties at fancy places, so she decides that he might be involved as well and decides to investigate.
We also get to see the next victim of this game that Panther Claw is playing, which is some hapless dude in his twenties who finds another bag just lying around. Wait, so we KNOW the investigation is going in the wrong direction? Speaking of which, Honey (who has used her transformation powers to turn into a hostess) is chatting up the now rich homeless guy to find out where he got all the money. Unfortunately, she keeps getting pulled away from him throughout the night and ends up become incredibly popular there.
Hayami isn’t doing much better considering he immediately gets accosted by a hostess and falls for her hook line and sinker. She milks the dude for all he’s worth and he wakes up the next morning with a rather large bill and no way to pay for it.
While these two are dealing with their shenanigans, we cut back to the hapless dude with the bag of money (I don’t think he’s ever given a name) who’s getting the breakup speech from his incredibly shallow girlfriend. Pushed up against a wall, he decides to finally start spending the money and showers his lady in lots of jewelry and material possessions.
Anyone else thinking of a Kanye West song? We cut back to the investigation where our heroes have tracked the former homeless guy down (who also doesn’t get a name) to a local gambling club that Hayami is refusing to go into for some reason. Maybe he’s got a crippling gambling addiction or he’s afraid of being cleaned out by a beautiful woman yet again. Honey doesn’t have such concerns and therefore is able to sneak in undercover.
She challenges him to some dice game and loses, but it’s what she wants because the stakes were that the loser would do anything the winner wanted. Naturally, he wanted her in his bedroom which is the best chance she has to be alone with him and get some answers. Well… after she fulfills her end of the deal (and while a super cheesy saxophone plays).
Honey doesn’t seem too into the cowboy shtick and decides to cut things short so she can put her plan into motion. He reveals to her that he does in fact have a giant bag of money, but the bag chooses THIS moment to start spewing its toxic gas. Hayami was listening in on the other side of the door, so when he hears the commotion he bursts in and promptly dies from the poison gas. No wait, he doesn’t get affected in the least and calls an ambulance to save the former homeless guy. That’s a bit odd. I can buy Honey not getting affected by the gas (she is a robot after all) but what’s Hayami’s excuse? While the former homeless guy is being brought to a hospital, we meet back up with the old guy from the first episode (Suzuki) and find out that this is indeed another game that Panther Claw has set up. The bet is whether or not someone will keep the bag of money or not, which seems like a REALLY poorly thought out plan. How much money are they throwing away to these people just to see how they react? I don’t doubt that Panther Claw can get the cash BACK without anyone noticing, but what about the money the unknowing participants spent in the mean time? Hell, what if they decide to spend it all at once or even decide to put it in a separate bag!? Anyway, we go to the hospital where the former homeless guy is being treated and NOW that he’s almost been poisoned and lost all his money does he have any sort of regrets about things and how he was ACTUALLY happier when he was a poor bastard. Yeah… I’m not buying this for a second.
So I guess the investigation’s now over, what with them saving the homeless guy from a premature death! That’s what they were doing, right? They didn’t have some OTHER reason to be following him around, right?
The hapless guy is at the altar and while he has some reservations, he’s still planning to go through with the wedding. That is until Honey shows up (who was made aware of this because of a tip from the homeless network) to give the hapless guy a tongue lashing about being dishonest. Finally realizing the error of his ways and the mistake he’s about to make, he confesses to his girlfriend that the money wasn’t his to spend and that he will return whatever’s left to the police. The girlfriend leaves in a huff which is probably for the best for the hapless guy. He may not be rich anymore, but he at least knows himself a bit better now and isn’t about to make a lifelong commitment to someone who really doesn’t love him. So I guess it all ends happily for everyone, right? Oh wait…
YES!! Panther Claw is finally tired of Honey’s interference and we get another fight scene!! No wait. Before we get that, we actually cut to something completely different. We see a young woman who’s just arrived at a prison and is being placed in one of the rooms. I WONDER IF THIS CHARACTER IS GOING TO BE SUPER IMPORTANT LATER!
The show doesn’t let us ruminate on it very long though because we cut back to the fight scene where everything is pretty much an improvement from the last one. The transformation sequence is a lot shorter, the fight choreography is much tighter (though I think there’s one scene where she kicks a guy off a wall that’s at least five feet away from her), and the random goons are just as good at selling every hit like they’ve just received a smack from Mjölnir. It’s still not PERFECT by any stretch, but the improvements are clear
The Panther Claw dude gets into the mix once again, but this time Cutie Honey holds her own against his assault and actually manages to land a hit. This turns out to be a BIG mistake though because doing so causes a hereto unknown personality to reveal itself (along with a giant fin hand instead of a feather hand) and he starts to wail on her mercilessly. Once again, the episode ends with Honey on the brink of defeat and trying desperately to escape the killing blow.
The show is still finding its way, but there are some definite improvements over what we saw in the first one. Honey has a much larger presence in this one and her interactions with Hayami are infinitely better. It doesn’t have those creepy has hell voyeur shots of teenage girls that riddled the first one, and while I think Panther Claw’s presence in this one is a bit token, they still manage to be effective foils for our hero. What doesn’t work though is their reliance on Honey as an object to be fetishized, and the lack of a female character to really counter balance that. Pretty much all the high school girls are bitchy to Honey for no apparent reason and the lone exception of Natsuko isn’t fleshed out enough to be more than bland and understated. Honey really is the only female character the show likes at this point and considering how the camera treats her, it’s not hard to find unfortunate implications in the text of the series. I know this aspect of the show improves as more characters are introduced, but the show doesn’t address this very well in these early episodes. Still, the investigation was fun and the fight scene at the end was great. It’s enough for now, but the show can’t keep treading water like this for very long. At some point, it has to move from a novelty into something compelling which I think it does at some point, but you wouldn’t know it from this episode and the last one.