is a Japanese media franchise created by Go Nagai. Cutie Honey first appears on volume 41 of the 1973 edition of Shōnen Champion. The titular character of Honey is considered the prototype for the transforming magical girl. According to Nagai, she is also the first female to be the protagonist of a shōnen manga series.
The franchise spans many works, including numerous manga series, two animated TV series, two OVA series, two drama CDs, and two live action adaptations. The animated and live-action versions share a common theme song, which has been covered many times by different performers. While Honey's exact appearance differs among the various versions, they all portray her as an outwardly ordinary girl named Honey Kisaragi, who can transform into the busty red- or pink-haired heroine Cutie Honey and other specialized forms to fight against assorted villains who threaten her or her world.
Nagai's inspiration for the character of Honey comes from classic shows that featured protagonists who took seven different forms, including the Bannai Tarao mysteries and Rainbowman (1972). Honey is notable for being mischievous for a Japanese female hero, often teasing her male friends and mocking her enemies in combat. When transforming into Cutie Honey, she gives a brief rundown of the forms she has previously taken in that particular episode, and then declares, "But my true identity is ..." before yelling "Honey Flash!" and transforming.
In these versions, Honey Kisaragi is a regular Catholic schoolgirl, until the day her father is murdered by the "Panther Claw" organization. After his death, she learns she is actually an android created by him and within her is . With her cry of "Honey Flash!" she can use the device to transform into the sword-wielding red-haired superhero, Cutie Honey. This device, or similar devices, have been used to explain her powers in all later Honey versions.
While attending the Saint Chapel School for Girls, Honey seeks revenge against the Panther Claw, which is ruled by Panther Zora and her younger sibling Sister Jill. Zora wants "the rarest items in the world" and seeks Honey's device, while Jill, leader of the group's division in Japan, "only wants the finest riches" and has a crush on Honey. Honey's best friend at school is the cute, freckle-faced Aki "Nat-chan" Natsuko. In the manga, Nat-chan, as well as the other students, had a crush on Honey; this crush was downplayed in the TV series.
Honey is aided in her quest by Danbei Hayami and his two sons, journalist Seiji and young Junpei. Danbei is based on the character Daemon from Go Nagai's prior work Abashiri Family. Nagai's manga also borrows the character Naojiro from that series (in a female form named Sukeban Naoko); the anime borrows the Paradise School, along with the characters Naojiro and Goeman (a teacher at the school) from the series.
At school, Honey is something of a "class clown" who enjoys teasing and pranking her teachers Alphonne and Miharu. Much of the comic relief in the original TV series comes from Honey's exploits at school. Miharu initially sees Honey as an incorrigible pest, but Alphonne is attracted to Honey and goes out of her way to be nice to her.
Honey has a large array of transformations in this series, her most common personae including:
In 1992, Nagai wrote that the idea to create the "Seven Transformations" hero was pitched by a Toei producer; he notes that his decision to make the protagonist a "female android" came from female characters from his previous works, Harenchi Gakuen and Abashiri Family, and from the character Maria from Metropolis.
For a television anime series, the original Cutie Honey achieved respectable ratings in Japan, and some of its cast and crew have worked on other major titles. The series achieved a peak rating of 11.6% for episode 18 (broadcast February 11, 1974) and generally scored ratings of around 8-10%. Shingo Araki, the character designer and animation director for the series, would later work on Saint Seiya and many others. Eiko Masuyama, who voices Honey in this series, has also worked in Lupin III series and films, voicing Lupin's associate and love (or lust) interest Fujiko Mine.
The first new versions of Cutie Honey since the 1970s include the New Cutie Honey OVA and the Cutie Honey Flash TV series. The OVA is set after the events of the original versions, while the TV series is a re-imagining of those events.
A 1992 manga series was also created by Nagai; set 30 years after the originals, it was released in the United States in 1997 by the now-defunct Studio Ironcat, as Cutie Honey '90. It has received criticism for having "bad quality" and "clumsy"-looking characters.
The series, which ended with eight episodes in 1995, pays homage to some of Nagai's other works, including the Mazinger and Devilman series. While the first four episodes contain a complete story, the last four episodes take a monster of the week approach. When the series was released on DVD in 2004, a scripted but unfilmed episode 9, a Christmas story, was released as a drama CD. The eight filmed episodes were released by ADV Films in the United States; the series remains the only Cutie Honey anime to be commercially released in the US.
The fourteenth episode of the anime introduces Misty Honey, a rival and self-proclaimed younger sister of Cutie Honey, whose name was chosen through a contest in Japan. Misty Honey, unlike Cutie Honey, cannot turn into anyone she wants; she can only change to Misty Honey. She has a band around her leg that resembles Honey's choker, which she uses to transform with the words "Honey Crash". She can be seen as a negative version of Cutie Honey, since Misty Honey has long blue hair and a less revealing outfit, while Cutie Honey has short pink hair and a more revealing outfit. Her alter ego, Seira Hazuki, shares her given name with Seiji's child, who appears only in the 39th and final episode. While the anime and manga versions of the characters of Cutie Honey Flash mostly look similar, the two versions of Hazuki differ greatly in appearance.
Again, Honey has a large array of transformations in this series; she can transform into versions of her original forms Hurricane Honey and Cutie Honey, as well as:
Cutie Honey's attacks include the Honey Boomerang and Honey Lightning Flare, while Misty Honey's attacks include Honey Sexy Dynamite.
Like New Cutie Honey before it, Cutie Honey Flash makes references to other Go Nagai series: Gorgon Claw is a female version of Archduke Gorgon of Mazinger Z, Freddy Claw is a female version of Dr. Hell and Count Blocken from Mazinger Z, and three boys from Honey's school are based on pilots from Getter Robo and Getter Robo Go. Early on in the series Great Mazinger briefly appears on a TV screen. Returning characters from the '70s versions include Seiji, Danbei, Natsuko, and Miharu.
Several new manga versions have also been produced. The first, , ran from 2001 to 2003. The second, , ran from 2003 to 2005; it was not fully released until October 2007. The third, , ran from 2004 to 2006; it was "written by Go Nagai, but not drawn by him", and tells the story of a boy named Yuuta, a Cutie Honey fan, who meets an alien with powers similar to those of Honey.
Prior Cutie Honey anime were cel-based, but Re: Cutie Honey uses computer animation. This has garnered mixed reactions from reviewers; an Anime on DVD review says the OVA "benefits" from this and "brings Honey’s world to life", while a review on the website Japan Hero says the animation is "distorted", "garish", "sub par and truly unsettling", except in "the fantastic title animation". Still, the series itself has been praised for its story and music, and has been called "creative, funny, and never repetitive".
The series makes references to other anime such as Lupin III and Sailor Moon, and many references to Kill Bill. As with prior Cutie Honey series, the OVA also features cameos from some of Go Nagai's other works, including Akira Fudo of Devilman and previous Cutie Honey regular Danbei. Re: Cutie Honey, like the 1970s manga, portrays Cutie Honey with dark-reddish eyes, not green eyes as in New Cutie Honey and Cutie Honey Flash; in Re: Cutie Honey she also wears an outfit that covers more of her cleavage than the other versions, but shows her midriff and other parts.
The Re: Cutie Honey Complete DVD, released on September 21 2005, includes a CD drama starring the four seiyū that have voiced Honey up to then: Masuyama (the '70s series), Neya (New Cutie Honey), Nagano (Cutie Honey Flash), and Horie (Re: Cutie Honey).
Other artists have also covered the song, including GO!GO!7188 for their Tora no Ana album, Masami Okui in the Masami Kobushi album, and a version by TWO-MIX. Animetal also did a cover of the song for their Animetal Lady album, with the lyrics sung by Mitsuyo Nemoto of the Japanese pop group Pink Lady. Pop star Ahyoomee's solo debut was a Korean adaptation of Koda's version; it became highly popular online, despite controversy over her pronunciation of the lyrics and her "unambiguously Japanese" outfit in one performance.
The song can also be heard during episode 27 of the 1974 magical girl TV series Majokko Megu-chan, when the main character Megu watches Honey, in her pop idol persona (Misty Honey), perform it on TV. In the seventh episode of the 2006 series Princess Princess, the Princesses also perform it, singing a few lines from the theme for an opening to a choir concert.
A "self cover" CD, Cutie Honey (21st century ver.), with new versions of the opening and ending themes by Maekawa herself, was released on February 27, 2008.
A bizarre version of the song was performed by Japanese Professional Wrestler Toshiaki Kawada for the HUSTLE promotion. Kawada's gimick in HUSTLE was that of a singing star who would challenge other wrestlers to singing battles. In this case he challenged Kotaro Suzuki and Kawada chose te theme from Cutie Honey as his song of choice (complete with dancing). Kawada's version became a ga amongst wrestling fandom circles and has made herounds on youtube.
In the last volume, Flash, Misty, and Cutie are killed when they fall into a spiked trap when they try to free a chained up Miki Makimura. Honey is electrocuted when she tries to rescue Ryou from the Slum King. Idol, Fancy, and Hurricane die in an explosion. The spirits of the seven women come together to form Angel Honey, whom Ryou sees in his dreams. When Ryou returns to his true form, as Satan, he fights in his sister's memory.
In the Japanese opening of Super Milk Chan, there are moments that directly parody the 1973 series' opening sequence.