It’s called “cognitive dissonance.”
That’s the only phrase that begins to describe the sensation when you find a bleak film set in a dystopian future which is called “Cutie Honey.” There’s something seriously wrong about the whole notion.
In fact, “Cutie” started out as the prototypical “magical girl” manga by Go Nagai, best known as the creator of Mazinger Z, about a super cute girl android who can transform herself into a variety of different guises. Mind you, this is a comic sexy girl series, so transforming involves losing all her clothes momentarily.
The previous versions have stayed fairly close to this original notion, even the first live action version, directed by Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. But for this new film we instead get a dark future world on the verge of collapse, where the elite live in the upper levels of the city, while the poor live down on the horribly polluted ground level.
And, yes, it rains all the time, thanks for asking.
So we have a future which is part Blade Runner, part High-Rise, with a manic TV host who makes me think more than a little of The Hunger Games and a perpetually sad and lonely android who knows that all her friends end up dead.
I think the live-action Space Battleship Yamato movie may be to blame here. We have yet another light-hearted franchise turned into grim adult fare (I’d say “children’s franchise, but like a lot of Japanese anime, it’s hard to say exactly the audience intended with their combination of comedy, silly fantasy and…nudity. Go figure). Mind you, that’s been going on in Japan since at least Casshern in 2004 — or even Hakaider back in 1995.
I also have to wonder whether they had the upcoming American version of Ghost in the Shell in mind when they made this.
Fans of the franchise are pretty much guaranteed to hate this one. Which is a bit of a pity, in a way, as it is reasonably well done, with some pretty good action scenes, a few shocks, some clever robot effects, a nicely detestable villain, a coherent and reasonably well thought out world, and that dramatic moment of sacrifice your typical magical girl comedy character never has to chose. In fact, the only thing that really seems to carry over from the original besides a few names and plot points, is the little heart emblem on Cutie’s battle uniform.
But it is a very tiny one.
Fortunately, I’ve never seen any of the other versions, so I enjoyed it for what it is, a half-way decent Japanese action/SF hybrid.
Oh, and I almost forgot: they do get that nudity in…well, mostly. Sorta. There’s so much blur effect and digital weirdness going on you really don’t see much of anything.
But they’re trying.
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