If you’re anything like me, then you came out of Devilman Crybaby interested in looking at other works by the original mangaka, Go Nagai. Following Crybaby’s release, there’s been a lot of discussion on Nagai’s impact on anime and manga as well as the quality of his works. It’s only natural then, to try and look at those works, especially if you enjoyed Crybaby for the elements that originated in the source material.
If that’s this case, then the first thing you should look at is the wonderful OVA, Re: Cutie Honey. Cutie Honey is another one of Nagai’s earlier works, focusing on a transforming android superheroine who fights an organization known as Panther Claw with the power of love. Not a particularly original plot at this point, though at the time it was quite a bit more novel. It’s filled to the brim with the traits which characterize all of Nagai’s work: it’s violent, over-the-top, and loaded with nudity.
Re: Cutie Honey is a 2004 OVA by Gainax which, much like Crybaby, reimagines the original Cutie Honey into a work which is respectful to its source while modernizing elements and giving freedom to its newfound creators. As a whole, it’s very different from Crybaby, but it has a lot of elements that can appeal to a lot of different people.
Cutie Honey is often considered the genesis of the ‘Magical Girl Warrior’ archetype. That’s not exactly true since it wasn’t necessarily considered a magical girl show when it was first made, but in retrospect, it’s had a decent deal of influence, most notably in originating the style of transformation sequence that Sailor Moon would later make ubiquitous.
Re: Cutie Honey is aware of that history and it incorporates it into the show. The transformations are now inspired by other magical girl anime themselves while still maintaining that classic look. Honey may not have been considered a magical girl at first, but she is now, and the OVA’s creators are certainly aware of that.
The anime has some really good action scenes, especially if you’re a fan of magical girls who battle more directly. Honey’s powers allow her to change how she’ll approach various situations but most of the time, she fights hand-to-hand using her sword. As you’d expect from a slightly older Gainax show, the animation here is fantastic and gives the fights some real weight while still allowing them to be flashy and unrealistic. I don’t know that it’s the kind of combat everyone wants to see, but I certainly enjoyed it quite a bit.
Of course, the nudity is another aspect that’s fairly central to this show and it’s hard to get around the fact that it’ll put some people off. If you made it through Crybaby you’ll probably be fine, but this is an anime where the main heroine’s outfit clearly has nipple outlines on it. Whenever Honey is running low on energy, her outfit quickly shrinks until she’s totally naked. In addition, plenty of moments throughout the show lead to her being disrobed for this reason or that. I don’t believe that all of this distracts from the show in any way but it’s definitely something that would be annoying to some people, so it’s worth being aware of it before you try out the OVA.
Of course, the intense amounts of sexuality and the heavy focus on violent fights aren’t the only thing Go Nagai was known for. He’s also known for his excellent design work. The designs here are absolutely modified and some of them are original, but they fit with Nagai’s general philosophy. Honey’s different getups are all really cool but the villains stand out the most. Panther Claw’s Four Gods all have excellent and unique designs which stand out and are fun to watch move.
Of course, Cutie Honey has one other big element that I haven’t yet mentioned: the yuri. A shockingly popular part of Crybaby was the potential for queer relationships. Ryo’s love for Akira was obvious but a ton of people really latched onto Miko’s feeling for Miki. If that’s the kind of thing you loved in Crybaby, then Re: Cutie Honey is probably a must watch.
While past versions of the series were often set in high school, this OVA declines that, instead making both Honey and the other main character adults. That other main character is Natsuki, more commonly referred to as Nacchan. She’s an incredibly badass investigator who, while lacking in powers, often steals the show with her excellent marksmanship and tough as nails personality.
While Re: Cutie Honey has a fairly interesting plot surrounding Honey’s quest for revenge and the struggle against Panther Claw, it’s her relationship with Nacchan that stands out as the most interesting, from both a thematic and emotional perspective. It’s Nacchan’s slow opening up to Honey that provides the both of them with the support that they need in order to ultimately defeat Panther Claw. In addition, Honey’s focus on being a warrior of love works really well when she has someone she’s in love with.
And man, are they in love. Barring the outright kiss and naked cuddling, both of which technically have excuses but come on, it’s still clear from the way they act around each other how vital it was that they initially met. They’re an absolutely adorable couple whose relationship only raises the both of them to new heights, something I always love to see. If you’re a big yuri fan, then this alone should be enough to get you to watch this OVA. I had this anime on my plan-to-watch well before I had seen Crybaby just because I knew it was yuri and it absolutely didn’t disappoint on that front.
Re: Cutie Honey was directed by Hideaki Anno but just saying that doesn’t tell the full story. Certainly, he had a lot of control over the project at large, but this wasn’t Eva. Here, he gave the episode directors a ton of freedom in controlling the tone of their given episodes and it stands out. Do you want rapid-fire dialogue, crazy action, and constantly shifting camera angles? Well then episode 1, which is directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, is right up your alley, full of the frantic action-comedy he’s so well known for.
Want something a bit less hyperactive? Then Itou Naoyuki’s, slower, more introspective episode 2 is one you might love. And if you want something more along the lines of Anno’s style, then episode 3 is the one for you, directed by him and Masayuki, another director who worked heavily on Eva. All the episodes are good of course but you’ll definitely get to see some clearly defined styles and I’m sure that anyone could pick out a favorite simply based on which director they like the best. I’d personally vouch for episode 2 but all of them have plenty of merit. In spite of all this, it’s still quite a cohesive work, which I suppose shows Anno’s skill as a director.
I already touched on Honey and Nacchan but it’s really quite impressive that they’re as good as they are, given the short runtime. It’s only 3, 45-minute episodes, the equivalent to a 6 episode OVA of a normal anime and yet its characters are pretty well fleshed out, even beyond the principal two. I especially have to give credit to the villains, particularly our main antagonist, Sister Jill, whose spotlight in the final episode makes her sympathetic and wonderful, with her complex situation adding a ton of depth to the series and to Honey herself.
Like I said, I can’t promise that every fan of Crybaby would like this. Crybaby is a pessimistic, though not nihilistic, work, while Honey is incredibly optimistic about the power of love. It’s more colorful, more zany, and more focused on having a good time. But it clearly carries with it Nagai’s ethos of pushing boundaries, while still being a work that doesn’t feel out of place in the 21st century. It’s got excellent animation, questions what it means to be human, and boasts great characters with a cute romance. You might not love it as a fan of Crybaby, but it’s absolutely worth trying out. And if you’re a fan of yuri, then it’s a must watch. Just be warned that it can get a bit leery.
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