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Kawaru wa yo! ("I'm going to change!")
—Honey Kisaragi (quote from the end of the legendary OP song)
A popular superheroine from the bizarre mind of Go Nagai. Notable, among other things, for being one of the first female characters to star in a Shounen series and through inspiration, the prototypical Magical Girl Warrior.
In the original Cutey Honey series from the 1970s, Honey Kisaragi was created as a Replacement Goldfish for a scientist's dead daughter, until the criminal organization (with ties to The Legions of Hell) "Panther Claw" kills the scientist while trying to steal his other Applied Phlebotinum. Honey soon acquires a secret identity as an Ordinary High School Student while fighting Panther Claw's forces, including an especially freaky set of Monsters Of The Week in the service of Big Bad Sister Jill and her Quirky Miniboss Squad.
Honey's main power is the Phlebotinum her father was killed for — her body contains the only prototype. Most modern adaptations explain it with Nanomachines, but it's capable of assembling virtually any object from thin air (and disassembling them, too). Honey uses this to become a Voluntary Shapeshifter, able to switch between several forms with matching abilities, costumes, and hair — especially her most powerful form, the sword-wielding Redheaded Heroine Cutey Honey.
While later revivals and the various manga are usually full of playful Fan Service, the original television adaptation was just tame and pretty enough to attract an unexpected number of younger female fans. It was also later broadcast in France under the title "Cherry Miel" ("Cherry Honey") - albeit not until 1989. It still wasn't enough to stop the original series from getting cancelled over its then-racy content.
Ironically, Cutey Honey was usually described as a superhero and not a magical girl, but her spiritual descendants have essentially melded back into the genre to produce the Magical Girl Warrior. Most anime of that ilk owe a lot to Honey. Sailor Moon's very early broadcast incarnation, in particular, owes much to the visual tropes done in Cutey Honey, right down to her In the Name of the Moon speech, her ability to transform, and the gender choice of the Monster of the Week. (Go Nagai eventually did create a "traditional" Magical Girl, the more kid-friendly and less successful Majokko Tickle, in 1978.)
The anime has been revived several times over the years:
- New Cutey Honey, a slightly Darker and Edgier sequel set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, with Cyberpunk overtones and several Lawyer-Friendly Cameos by other Go Nagai characters. The transformation sequences were lovingly animated. This slightly infamous version of the story is one of the few officially released outside Japan, although it is admittedly faithful to Go Nagai's work.
- Cutey Honey Flash: This incarnation was directly aimed at Sailor Moon's demographic - in fact, it was the next series to air in its timeslot after the last season and shared a lot of the same production staff. Aside from obvious reasons, was tweaked to play up the Magical Girl aspects of the character, right down to a sparkling stock footage Transformation Sequence and a Frilly Upgrade. This version also introduced a now standard trope, the Dark Magical Girl, Misty Honey.
- Hideaki Anno and Gainax produced a Live Action Adaptation movie version in 2004, titled simply Cutie Honey. This is the only part of the franchise besides New Cutey Honey to make it to America.
- Gainax also released a 3-part OVA, Re: Cutie Honey, at roughly the same time. This series used the premises and characterizations from the 2004 movie, but played up the Les Yay between Honey and Natsuko, here revamped as an stern, tough as nails adult policewoman. Anno was also part of this series, but while he provided the overall series direction, each episode had a different director and it shows.
- A Toku live-action series, Cutie Honey: THE LIVE aired in 2007. This series revolved around Honey (and two counterparts introduced later) fighting a radically different version of the Panther Claw. Quite possibly the most bizarre series yet as it pinballs between utterly shameless So Bad It's Good fanservice and utterly serious, dark drama.
There have also been several different manga adaptations of the franchise.
Despite its status as a legendary and influential anime in Japan, Cutie Honey is almost entirely unknown in North America. This series is not to be confused with another old-school anime, Honey Honey - although coincidentally both Honey Honey and the original Cutey Honey TV series had the same head writer (Masaki Tsuji) and some of the same animation/directorial staff.
Tropes found in multiple versions of this series:
- Action Girl: OH SO MUCH. Every anime Action Girl is just following the example Honey established way back when. She's to anime what Samus Aran is to video games.
- Alertness Blink
- All Men Are Perverts: And also kind of useless.
- Anime Theme Song: One of the most famous in anime history and covered for every subsequent production.
- Also an Ear Worm of incredible proportions.
- Ass Kicks You
- Badass Adorable: Honey certainly qualifies. She's a very sweet, loveable girl when not in full action mode. However, when she transforms, she turn into a...
- Hot Amazon: Especially in her Shin version, where she's more adult, and thus, more... well-endowed.
- Badass Grandpa: Danbei Hayami, a full-fledged Ninja (and a cyborg in New Cutey Honey).
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Even happens in the live action versions, although it's averted in New Cutie Honey (and not only with nipples).
- Between My Legs: Commonly shows up in nearly every version of the show, usually as a Fanservice shot, not least of which is one of these shots with Honey's bare butt in the camera in Re: Cutey Honey.
- Big Bad: Sister Jill, Panther Zora
- Big Eater: The live-action movie and Re: Cutey Honey versions were this because of their powers; if they were too hungry, they lost vital energy and couldn't transform.
- Bragging Theme Tune: The theme song talks about how great Honey is, including her fashion sense and bouncy her boobs are. Also see Honey's spiritual descendant Majokko Meg-chan, whose Bragging Theme Tune was sung by the same vocalist as the original Cutie Honey theme.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: A scene in the original TV series in which Honey is hanging on a cross (in an homage to Go Nagai's first popular manga series, Harenchi Gakuen) and one side of Honey's torn sleeveless unitard-dress is drooping down, exposing her breast, but stopping literally JUST short of exposing the nipple. One of her tormentors remarks, "That's as far as the broadcasters let us go."
- By the Power of Greyskull: "Honey FLASH!"
- Once per episode, almost without fail (At least in New Cutey Honey - in one episode the villain interrupted her by running away and she lampshaded how you don't interrupt the heroine's speech), Honey would recite the following to the villain: (Laughs) Sometimes I'm (the first shape she took in the episode), sometimes I'm (second form she took in the episode), and sometimes I'm (third form she took), but the truth is...HONEY FLASH! (Cue Transformation Sequence) Lovely Warrior...Cutey Honey-san!
- Calling Your Attacks: In the original series and especially in Flash.
- Camp: Played to the hilt. Re:Cutie Honey could drown you in it.
- Oh, the live action movie also certainly qualifies.
- Clothing Damage: Honey's clothes are shredded off during every transformation sequence. Re:Cutie Honey even had her clothes disintegrate whenever she got hungry. And there's plenty of combat-induced Clothing Damage, too.
- Combat Pragmatist: Honey will use ANY and ALL dirty trick she can think of. She never plays for the enemy's rules.
- Cool Bike: "Hurricane Honey" seems able to either materialize or find one at will.
- The Corruption: This is how quasi-innocents become Monsters of the Week in some continuities.
- Defeat by Modesty... which is averted completely and utterly. Honey treats nudity more as a minor inconvenience at best.
- Dirty Old Man: Grandpa Danbei from the manga and New Cutey Honey.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Honey Kisaragi used this as one of her WEAPONS. Although sometimes her transforming device worked wrong and she did it accidentally.
- Dude in Distress: Every notable male character will always end up needing to be rescued by Honey.
- Dumb Blonde: Honey Kisaragi in civilian mode, depending on the version.
- Evil Laugh: Honey provides a rare heroic example at the start of her In the Name of the Moon speeches.
- Fan Disservice: The original manga has a lot of nudity, and it's not all Honey. There's the bullies at Honey's school — fat, hairy, and always topless — a private detective who never wears pants and whose anus frequently spurts blood, and Danbei's penis.
- Fan Service: So very yes.
- Arguably, this show is the show that started Fan Service in anime.
- Fetish Fuel Station Attendant: Sometimes she's a ditzy blonde in a miniskirt. Other times she's a Badass Biker in skintight leathers. Sometimes she's a dominatrix. (And so on.) But the truth behind them all is Warrior of Love, Cutey Honey — a Fiery Redheaded Hot Chick with a Sword!
- Foe Yay: Several examples; in the original manga, Sister Jill tried making a pass at Honey during a Phlebotinum Breakdown just before the final battle.
- Genius Ditz: Exactly how much of a ditz and how much of a genius varies alot in every incarnation of the character.
- The Heartless
- Hot-Blooded: She's a Go Nagai character with sideburns, go figure.
- Hotblooded Sideburns: See Hot-Blooded. Less applicable than on other Go Nagai characters, though, as the pic shows.
- Even Seiji and Junpei have them.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl
- In the Name of the Moon: The originator of this trope, to the point of being occasionally quoted by the Trope Namer.
- Leotard of Power: In at least one adaptation. However, in the original TV series and New Cutey Honey, it's actually more like a Unitard Of Power.
- Magical Girl Warrior: Helped define the trope.
- Master of Disguise: Honey.
- Miniature Senior Citizens
- Mono-Gender Monsters: All of the monsters are female, without exception.
- Mooks: The mooks are all male, though.
- More Than Mind Control: Panther Zora recruits several Monsters Of The Week this way. In the latter half of New Cutey Honey we see this in action; a huge, muscular woman (part of a quartet of thieves) slowly becomes more psychotic as she succumbs to her rage and Zora's Mind Rape, and eventually she turns into an acid-spewing monster fully under Panther Zora's control and willing to kill (or try to kill) her former True Companions without a thought simply For the Evulz.
- Ms. Fanservice: Honey herself. Thankfully, she balances this out by being an ABSOLUTE BADASS.
- Multiform Balance: The Cutie Honey swordswoman form is usually the most powerful, but each of her transformations tends to have its advantages.
- No Export for You: Only the extremely ecchi and live action remakes of the series have ever made it outside Japan.
- Incorrect. The original 1973 Cutey Honey TV series was released in France as "Cherry Miel", and 1997's Cutey Honey Flash was very popular in Germany.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Most incarnations of Honey act ditzier than she really is.
- One-Winged Angel
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: The "Honey Boomerang".
- Psycho Lesbian: Several.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad
- Refuge in Audacity: New Cutey Honey and Re: Cutey Honey don't even try to be subtle in their blatant fanservice.
- Replacement Goldfish: Honey herself, created as the "replacement" for Dr. Kisaragi's dead daughter (though before dying, Daddy told her she should become her own person). In New Cutey Honey, she shows signs of this towards that version of Natsuko after the original's Heroic Sacrifice.
- Averted somewhat in Re: Cutie Honey, where Honey is the original daughter's mind resurrected in an android body.
- A darker version is shown in The Live. Proffy Kisaragi mortally wounded Miki and killed her family, made her into android with his daughter's memory, and then threw her away when he realized she was flawed. Miki came back to kill him later, though.
- Revival: Several times — New Cutey Honey, Cutey Honey F, The Movie, Re: Cutie Honey, and Cutie Honey: The Live.
- A weird case of a revival revival: New Cutey Honey had a definite air of finality in its fourth episode, but production got renewed for four more OVAs, so Panther Zora started injecting her will into certain violent individuals to turn them into monsters.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Alphonne and Miharu are killed off in the original manga during the attack on Honey's school and this is Played for Laughs. They get to live in the anime, where they made more appearances and such unceremonious deaths would have felt inappropriate.
- Also spared in the anime: all of the students at Honey's school except Natsuko.
- The original Cutey Honey was kicked off by the death of Dr. Kisaragi, Honey's father. In Cutey Honey Flash, he is merely kidnapped.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The series title has been both "Cutey" and "Cutie" over the years. The most recent releases use "Cutie", such as 'Re:Cutie Honey", but the older series definitely spell it "Cutey".
- Stalker with a Crush
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Talking Is a Free Action: Just about every episode, before one of her Transformation Sequences, Honey will recap the forms she's taken that episode before transforming into her Red Haired Warrior form.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Idol Honey sings the anime theme song while on stage. Chokkei's father sings it to himself while peeping on Honey.
- The Load: Almost in every adaptation the majority of the male characters have at best been helpful mowing down a couple of mooks (who are also men. Notice the pattern?), but will ultimately always become the Dude in Distress, leaving Cutie Honey to save the day.
- Transformation Sequence: Which is either more or less fanservicey depending on which incarnation you're watching.
- Transformation Trinket: Honey's choker.
- Transformation Name Announcement
- Trickster Archetype: Honey herself.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Honey's transformations tend to work this way, although there are exceptions.
- Younger Than They Look: Honey passes for a 16-year old human when she's not transformed to look older or younger, but was built more recently than that.
- Bittersweet Ending: Panther Claw is never completely defeated in any series.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Natsuko in the original manga and TV series. Prof. Kisaragi and Seira in Cutey Honey Flash.
Tropes found in The Original Series:
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Panther Claw actually tracks Honey back to her school and destroys it.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Seiji, in one episode.
- Glamour Failure: In Episode 3, Honey and Seiji wonder why the owner of a new jewelry store refuses to let reporters take photos of her. Turns out she's a Panther Claw minion in disguise, and the camera shows her true form.
- Go Out with a Smile: Natsuko's final scene.
- Gonk: Alphonne.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Danbei is voiced by the same guy (Ichiro Nagai) who voiced Happosai in Ranma ½ and Cherry in Urusei Yatsura. Honey's voice actress (Eiko Masuyama) is probably best known to Westerners as Fujiko Mine in Lupin III.
- Hostage for Macguffin: The baddies try this a lot, usually using Seiji, Junpei, and/or Danbei as the hostage.
- Hot for Student: Alphonne-sensei has a crush on Honey.
- Informed Attribute: There's no actual proof of Honey's status as an android until the final episode. Indeed Honey is threatened by drowning, strangulation and bleeding more than her android status is mentioned.
- Kill the Cutie: Poor Natsuko.
- Theme Naming: Panther Claw's minions all have either "panther" or "claw" in their names.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In episode 2.
- Two-Teacher School: Alphonne and Miharu/"Histler".
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Dr. Kisaragi brings this up in the first episode with his "What is a human? What is a robot?" speech, the gist of which is that even though Honey is an android, he still loves her like a daughter.
Tropes found in the original manga:
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Later in the manga, Honey's powers became more and more unreliable.
- Schoolgirl Lesbians: Parodied - Honey's secret identity goes to a girls' boarding school, and, well, things happen.
- The Starscream: When Sister Jill chastised Dragon Panther, her subordinate openly rebelled, declaring Jill was too weak to order her around, and she would kill her and fill her position. It did not work how she expected it to.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Being a Hot-Blooded Action Girl, Honey is bound to utter the sentence several times. One example happened shortly after one of Panther Claw minions charred her best friend to ashes:
Honey: "Not only They did kil my papa... And blow up my school and kill my friends... My best friend.. They killed Natsu-chan too! I won't forgive you, Panther Claw! No matter what happens to my body, I will kill each and every member of Panther Claw!"
- This Page Will Self-Destruct: Dr. Kisaragi's robot recording and house do this after delivering his posthumous exposition. Honey is about this close to leaving Seiji to die so he can't tell anyone.
- The Unfought: Panther Zora in the original manga.
Tropes found in New Cutey Honey:
- Action Mom: Daiko Hayami.
- Ambiguously Brown: Jewel Princess.
- Anti-Villain: Natsuko's former friends Gene, Pokey, and Jan stole a bomb with plans to hold it for ransom, and then use the money to start over somewhere else. The bomb heist was going to be their last heist, before Gene got Hijacked by Panther Zora and killed Pokey and Jan.
- Back from the Dead: Black Maiden is really Panther Zora.
- Big Bad: Dolmeck.
- The Constant: In the ambiguous future of New Cutey Honey, a cyborged Danbei is the only living reminder of Honey's past.
- Darker and Edgier
- Depraved Homosexual: Virtual Hacker, a Camp Gay Master of Illusion.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Gold Digger has two blinding lights on the inside of her breast plates she uses to stun her enemies.
- Do-Anything Robot: In this version, Grandpa Danbei's become a Do Anything Cyborg, with most of Mazinger Z's attacks. (This is Lampshaded in the eighth episode.)
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: An inversion. Gene looked more like a Go Nagai man; huge, muscular, masculine haircut.
- Foe Yay: Used as a diversion. Rocker Saline discovers Honey searching her dressing room, so to get out Honey pretends to be an enamored fan who loves Saline. A flustered and horrified Saline throws Honey out of her dressing room, screaming "I'm not into THAT!" (Honey, on the other hand, says "that was kind of fun!")
- Forgot the Call: Honey begins the series in Amnesia Danger as the Sexy Secretary to the first episode's Decoy Protagonist.
- Giggling Villain: Peeping Spider.
- Heel Face Turn: Peeping Spider, almost. It was in the eight episode, which was the last one made.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Michiko Neya and Jessica Calvello as Honey; Rica Matsumoto as Chokkei; Tiffany Grant as Daiko; Tristan MacAvery as Danbei Hayami; Junko Iwao as Natsuko; and Ai Orikasa and Kikuko Inoue as Special Guest Monsters of the Week.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Panther Zora showing up after three episodes of Dolmeck as the Big Bad.
- Hot Shounen Mom: Daiko.
- Hotter and Sexier
- Immortality Begins At Twenty: Honey looks a few years older in New Cutey Honey, possibly due to having used her transformation abilities to age just out of puberty.
- Lampshade Hanging: Quite a bit in Volume 2, though often it's straight fourth-wall breaking - like when Honey says she's contractually obligated to wear a bulletproof bra because the fans would be devastated if anything happened to her breasts.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Several — Honey turns into "Chinese Warrior Honey" or "Kung Fu Honey" in episode 3, into "Sukeban Honey" in ep. 7, and into a stripper who looks a lot like Hououji Fuu in ep. 8. The series also has guest appearances by Go Nagai characters Akira Fudo and Professor Kabuto.
- Mama Bear: Daiko.
- The Man Behind the Man: Panther Zora.
- Older Than They Look: Honey looks a few years older than she did in the original series, but not the over one hundred years she actually is by then.
- Outlaw Couple: Daiko and Akakabu (Chokkei's parents)'.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up; The "Black Maiden" (a nude girl in a bottle on top of a suit of armor) turns out to really be Panther Zora's reincarnated form; when Dolmeck's armor is cracked open, evil power courses out and ages her back to her adult form.
- Premiseville: Cosplay City
- Psycho Lesbian: Jewel Princess.
- Psycho Serum: The capsules which induce One-Winged Angel in the user.
- Series Fauxnalie: The fourth episode seems to end everything with a bang, but then four more episodes got made.
- Shorttank: Natsuko.
- Shout-Out: This version has numerous nods to Go Nagai's other works.
- Spy Catsuit: Invoked — Chokkei and Grandpa Danbei wear these while on a spying mission with Honey, and Danbei persuades her that she really needs to change into one, too. Danbei is disappointed when his grandson keeps him from peeping on the Transformation Sequence.
- Stone Wall: Akakabu's "fighting style" (if you can call it that) is simply to absorb more punishment than the opponent can dish out. Daiko fell in love with this determination (because she was unable to defeat him, no matter how many times he got the crap kicked out of him).
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Chokkei's parents Akakabu and Daiko rob banks for a living, but we only see this once during the intro, and they fail spectacularly as everyone in the bank lobby is armed and gunning for them.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Akakabu and Daiko.
- Villain Song: "Burning Up" by punk rocker Saline.
- Wax Museum Morgue: The Jewel Princess.
- Wrench Wench: Natsuko.
- Xanatos Gambit: Honey eventually manages to skewer the Big Bad Dolmeck — exactly as planned. It turns out that he's Sealed Evil in a Can, and Honey opened a portal to Hell so the souls of the foes she's defeated can awaken Dolmeck's Dragon to take her true form — Panther Zora herself.
- You Can Leave Your Hat On: Honey poses as a stripper to lure a crook she needs boxed out of hiding.
Tropes found in Cutey Honey Flash:
- Dark Magical Girl: Misty Honey
- Frilly Upgrade: Hyper Honey
- Lighter and Softer: This version is a magical girl series in the same line of Sailor Moon.
- Magic Skirt: In Cutie Honey Flash. Definitely not in any other version.
- Mysterious Protector: Twilight Prince, who might as well be an Expy of Tuxedo Mask.
Tropes found in Re: Cutey Honey:
- Badass Normal: Natsuko.
- Dirty Old Man: Honey's boss.
- Inspector Javert: Natsuko.
- Intimate Healing: Natsuko and Honey.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Koji, Boss, and Sayaka get a cameo in one episode. So do Akira and Miki (1972 TV series versions) from Devilman, and the original anime Natsuko from 1973.
- Nipple-and-Dimed: Very averted.
- Plucky Office Girl: Honey works as one of these.
- Power of Love: Na-chan saves a destablized Honey with this.
- They Fight Crime: At the end, Natsuko and Honey go into work together as private detectives.
Tropes found in the Live Action Adaptations:
- Animated Credits Opening: The live-action movie.
- Face Heel Turn: Sister Yuki in The Live.
- Kill and Replace: Cobalt Claw does this to the Alpha Bitch in The Movie.
- Live Action Adaptation: Two, in fact: The Movie and Cutie Honey: The Live.
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Taken to an extreme with Sister Miki and Sister Yuki in "The Live".
- They Fight Crime: Honey, Miki and Yuki had a brief gig as a team of three in The Live. Of course, Miki and Yuki's system flaws, coupled with Yuki being manipulative, made sure that this partnership didn't last long.