By Go Nagai. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Champion. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Zack Davisson.
This one-volume omnibus of the original Cutie Honey came out here in North America after the sequel volume, Cutie Honey a Go Go!, and unlike the other recent classic property where the sequel came first (Harlock), I think it’s for the best. A Go Go had most of what made the original so attractive, but packaged it in a modern way, complete with Natsuko as an adult police officer. Here we get unfiltered Nagai, and… it can be a lot to take. The constant nudity, the lesbian tease used solely for male titillation, the cartoon violence and horror, the fourth wall breaking. This is almost a college course in what classic manga of the 70s was like, and reminds me why it didn’t get brought over for so long. Still, at its heart this is worth reading, if only to see why Cutie Honey also ended up inspiring female readers. Honey fights evil and wins WITHOUT the help of a guy. In fact, the guys are useless.
The premise, in case anyone was unaware: a scientists builds an android named Honey, who doesn’t even know she’s an android at first, and stashes her at a girl’s private school, where she befriends the young, cheerful, and prone to getting captured Natsuko. But the evil organization Panther Claw want the secrets that Honey has within her body… and kill her father to get at them. Together with a reporter who happened to be interviewing her father when Panther Claw attacked, his family, and Natsuko, Honey fights back against the all-female villain team of Panther Claw. Heads will roll. Indeed, they frequently do. Is there anything that can stop this senseless battle? Possibly one of the villains being attracted to Honey, but alas, the series is cancelled before that goes anywhere.
Yeah, that’s right, this is done in one because it got dropped pretty fast (though it wasn’t axed as fast as Cutie Honey a Go Go0. Honestly, in many ways it’s for the better. Cutie Honey is a Warner Brothers Cartoon in most ways. The characters are two-dimensional and stereotypical, the humor is broad and sometimes verges on gross, it can be fairly sexist despite its empowering premise, and it’s super violent, with most of the cast ending up dead. That said, the sheer verve and imagination of Go Nagai kept me turning pages, and I was never bored. The wisecracks may be vaudeville-style, but they’re frequently hilarious anyway. And the fights are really nice to see, with Honey pretty much going all out on her own – the reporter is far more useless here than he is in A Go Go – and showing off her assets. So to speak.
By the end of the book you can see that Nagai has sort of ground to a halt – the series should have ended after the school is destroyed and Natsuko dies, but the manga was tying in to the anime that was running at the same time, and so it staggers on a bit, complete with annoying cameos from one of Nagai’s other gag manga. It ends like a 5-car pile up, with a naked Honey singing her anime theme song while blushing and asking readers not to look. But they do. While certainly a product of its time, I can appreciate the zest that Cutie Honey brought to shonen manga, as well as a lighter side to Go Nagai’s works.