Among the names of influential manga writers Go Nagai would be near the top of the list and although nearly every series he is known for originally ran back in the 1970s he still is an inspiration for many famous names that are currently producing the anime and manga fans know and love. While Go Nagai created series such as Devilman and Mazinger Z he also created a series known as Cutie Honey that has been given numerous anime adaptations over the years. After four different adaptations since the 70s the series, the series returns once again in Cutie Honey Universe.
Honey Kisaragi appears to most at the private girls only Saint Chapel Academy as a beautiful girl that gets along with everyone but in reality she is an android known best as Cutie Honey. Created by her father and housing the Airborne Element Fixing Device Honey is capable of transforming into a number of different versions of herself all with special abilities, be it musical talent, investigation, or most of all combat. Sometime after her creation her father was slain by Panther Claw as they sought out the Airborne Element Fixing Device for their own means and Honey now works in tandem with the Panther Claw Criminal Investigation Service (PCIS) to put a stop to their activities whenever they appear.
Unfortunately, since Panther Claw’s main goal happens to be what Honey happens to protect, things are never quite so simple. Especially since Sister Jill, the leader of Panther Claw and the one capable of transforming normal girls into Panther monsters to do her bidding, seems to be far more interested in Honey than simply taking the device, going so far as to even disguise herself as an inspector that works against Panther Claw.
In many ways Cutie Honey Universe feels like a half-baked series as it manages to feature some solid story threads throughout its twelve episode run these threads tend to be left hanging by the time the credits roll one final time and the poignant plot points that do stick out happen few and far between primarily due to how episodic in nature the series is. Throughout most of the series viewers will find that a group of people are being threatened by members of Panther Claw only for Honey to track them down, lose a bit, then defeat them in a flash. This leaves the aforementioned threads about Sister Jill’s infiltration playing as background development throughout episodic events.
On the other side of things Cutie Honey Universe is also one that isn’t afraid to go full throttle when it needs to. Civilian casualties due to Panther Claw’s actions are a real threat and when they begin targeting those close to Honey the cruelty of the group comes out in full force. Numerous people who are close to Honey end up murdered due to the actions of the Panther Claw members and unlike many series that appear colorful on the surface such as this one, these deaths are an almost permanent factor.
This dark nature appears more often throughout the second half of the series as Sister Jill’s manipulations of events continue to push Honey to the edge though after a certain point it does become a bit questionable about just what Panther Claw’s motives actually are. At the start it may appear that Sister Jill’s aim is to simply obtain the Airborne Element Fixing Device but throughout the series her motivations simply turn into torture for the sake of seeing Honey crushed. While this turn in desire may work if it were properly built but instead we are left with a main villain that ends up falling so deeply into the deep end of evil that one would question why anyone would follow her. This fact is at least slightly touched upon by a few members thinking for themselves but otherwise they have blind devotion to Sister Jill even when being slain for no reason by her.
This leaves Cutie Honey Universe as a series that has some solid action sequences, mostly in the latter half as the fights begin to last longer and especially in the case of the final two episodes, mixed in with some hit and miss humor very reminiscent of the ’70s where a number of gag characters pull off most of the jokes. In fact, outside of Honey, Sister Jill, a pair of Panther Claw monsters, and Honey’s close friend Natsuko, nearly every other character plays such an irrelevant part to the story they tend to nearly entirely feel like gag characters outside of the rare serious moment. Thanks to numerous plot holes, little background details, and information that never manages to pan out in any way, those looking for a solid storyline here beyond Honey facing down Panther Claw, will find Cutie Honey Universe lacking.
Being an adaptation of Go Nagai’s work it is clear that Production Reed, the animation studio for Cutie Honey Universe, wanted to try to capture his character designs perfectly and for the most part the company pulled it off perfectly. This does mean that some side characters do have a rather odd design to them but the core cast and designs of the Panther Claw monsters are quite strong here. Unfortunately those looking forward to seeing a variety of Honey’s transformations will find that most of her forms are given an extremely short time of use compared to her default and combat forms.
The series features a great contrast between vibrant colors for normal scenes and those featuring Honey and darker more sinister tones when the Panther Claw members are attacking. It is worth noting that this release of Cutie Honey Universe is uncensored though outside of some extra nipples being shown here and there the nudity is kept fairly low while fan-service in the form of torn clothing and panty shots remain quite high.
With the release of Cutie Honey Universe in the West Sentai Filmworks has produced an English dub to accompany the Japanese voice track and longtime fans of the series will be happy to note that they even went as far as to obtain Jessica Calvello, the original English voice for Honey in all previous Western releases for the franchise, to reprise her role here. The English voice cast does a solid job here with some decent voice effects used for the monsters, though the Japanese voice track is there for those that wish to use it and listen to a fairly stacked line-up of well-known Japanese voice actors.
The soundtrack for the series is something of an odd topic as it has a number of great pieces of background music and even goes so far as to include a number of vocal background tracks during important scenes but it also happens to be missing a key opening theme that the series has used all previous anime iterations, “Cutie Honey.” Instead the opening theme is replaced with “You Can’t Fight Without Love,” by AouP which is a solid theme on its own but has a hard time replacing the nostalgia and tradition of the original theme while the ending theme is “Sister” by Luz.
The bonus features included in Cutie Honey Universe include a clean version of the opening theme animation as well as clean versions of the two ending theme animations accompanied by trailers for other releases from Sentai Filmworks.
Cutie Honey Universe is a series that had plenty of potential to be tapped but unfortunately doesn’t really manage to deliver in any meaningful way as numerous plot points are skimmed over with little explanation or final resolution and even the main villain’s motivations feel flimsy at best. The action scenes featuring Honey battling against Panther Claw are a delight, although character development is rather barren it comes off perfectly when it does occur, and as for the humor, it works well at times but will be rather hit and miss for viewers due to it sticking true to the ‘70s style.