Cutie Honey A Go-Go

Cutie Honey a Go Go! is not a conventionally good manga: the plot is riddled with holes, the story lacks a proper conclusion, and the characters are paper-thin. Yet for all its obvious limitations, Cutie Honey a Go Go! is cheeky fun in the manner of an Austin Powers movie; it’s a cartoon of a cartoon, an irreverent send-up of the source material that simultaneously captures the original manga’s naughty tone while updating the plot and characters for contemporary readers.

Cutie Honey a Go Go! borrows liberally from Hideaki Anno’s 2004 film and Go Nagai’s original 1973 manga, mixing elements of both with a few new flourishes. In Cutie Honey a Go Go!, for example, Aki Natsuko is no longer a blushing school girl with a crush on her android sempai, but a hard-charging special agent who faces down danger with the brash confidence of a Harrison Ford character. Aki and Cutie’s arch nemesis Sister Jill has likewise gotten a makeover, from whip-wielding bad girl to wicked android intent on world domination. The signature elements of Nagai’s original story remain intact, however: Cutie Honey is still an impossibly innocent, cheerful android whose clothing dissolves to tatters every time she powers up, and her main opponents are the Panther Claw ladies, a group of monstrous beauties who work for Sister Jill.

Though manga-ka Shimpei Itoh’s action scenes are clumsy, his character designs are a playful nod to the era that begat Cutie Honey, straddling the fence between retro and modern. The Panther Claw gang look like Betty Paige cosplayers, busty gals in barely-there costumes that feature leopard spots and extra arms, while Cutie Honey rocks her signature pixie cut and a backless jumpsuit that David Lee Roth might have worn in 1984. It’s hard to be offended by the T&A, though, since Cutie Honey a Go Go! resembles a 1962 issue of Playboy more than a volume of Air Gear; there’s a pin-up coyness about Itoh’s cheesecake that renders these images benign. It’s also difficult to be offended by a manga that works so hard to entertain the reader with its anything-for-a-laugh jokes, over-the-top battle sequences, and campy dialogueI found its unironic goofiness charming — costume failures and all — and think you might, too. Recommended.

Cutie Honey a Go Go!
Original Story by Go Nagai; Story & Art by Shimpei Itoh; Planning Cooperation by Hideaki Anno
Translated by Zack Davisson and Adrienne Beck
Seven Seas, 400 pp.
Rated T, for Teen (Nudity and bloodless violence)