Anime Vice News

What CUTEY HONEY Says About Sexism in Anime

HONEY FLASH! Sam's exploration of sexism in anime brings him to talk about CUTEY HONEY-- and his take on the show might surprise you! IS IT TIME TO CHANGE... YOUR OPINION!?

Last time, I talked about how High School of the Dead (HSOTD) made me reconsider the way women are portrayed in anime. Had I been a little sexist before? Was this even a problem? So now I go back to examine one of my favorite anime of the past, CUTEY HONEY, to see if these critiques of myself hold true.

What I found was oddly one of the most positive examples of female sexuality... if you look past the stripping. Read on!

For those not familiar, Cutey (or Cutie) Honey (created by Go Nagai) is a female android who transforms into different armors and costumes (mainly fetish related) to combat the evil forces of Panther Claw, headed by her opposite number Sister Jill. Usually accompanied by a male ace reporter and perverted scientist grandfather figure, she often deals with issues relating to her humanity, purpose, and sometimes falling in love.

Each series of CUTEY HONEY are wildly different in their portrayal, reflecting the times in which they were made. The original Honey was very much a sexploitation comedy reflecting the trippy 1970's spy vibe. Despite the limited animation, it was one of the first uses of sex as a selling point in anime.

With it’s next incarnation, CUTEY HONEY FLASH, the tone shifted to reflect it’s magical girl roots as much as possible, including two different love interests for Honey and increasing Honey’s appeal to young girls. The OVA version, NEW CUTEY HONEY featured a much more voluptuous lead more in the vein of a female pro wrestler. This series was seen as a tribute to Go Nagai’s previous works, and has more horror and action elements. It is also a terribly 90's anime with a less than stellar English dub.

So why does CUTEY HONEY get a pass from me, HSOTD didn’t? Well, it’s all about the tone.

Kisaragi Honey’s main purpose might be to titillate in these shows, but I always felt she was funny and strong and appealing as well. While she might fall pray to stupid traps and being written pretty airheaded in some cases, she always ends up on the winning side by utilizing her special powers in a come from behind victory. It’s also a comedy, which HSOTD was not, though I found their flip-flopping of the female characters very laughable.

But looking back at the series, however, I can now see what CUTEY HONEY really was: a sofcore parody of hentai.

Honey attended an all girl Catholic prep school, and was essentially the lustful idol that boys and girls alike went after. And every time her alter ego would show up and start changing into costumes, they’d often conform to some kind of sexy stereotype. And when Cutey Honey would fight Panther Claw, they’d often put her in risque situations where the threat of being violated was ever present.

The only thing the show was missing was sex scenes, and that would be a totally different show altogether!

I am fine watching hentai, but if CUTEY HONEY crossed over into that, it would cease to be the kind of show that I could really get behind. While it does play into broad characterizations of women it does so with such tongue in cheek it’s hard to take it very seriously. Which is why that attitude didn’t work for me in HSOTD because I was meant as the audience to take their plight and drama very seriously, so the violence against women really stood out.

If you do something with a comedy bent, that infuses irony into the situation, distances you from the action, and acknowledges its inherent absurdity. Everyone gets in on the joke. That’s why Saya getting attacked by Takashi in HSOTD because she’s a hysteric woman is upsetting, but Cutey Honey gleefully having her clothes explode-- by her own choice-- is positive and amusing... if definitely skewed towards the male audience.

Cutey Honey is not a show for everyone... though my mom and fiancee might find it amusing, if only because they know me so well. I still remain an avid fan of the show, and think that despite her oversexualization, Cutey Honey shows agency and effects her world by using her sexuality rather than being a victim of it. Some of her issues might be simplified but at least they are acknowledged, and the action comedy tone keeps it outside the realm of offensiveness.

I guess teenage Sam wasn’t a sexist after all! Maybe a bit of a horndog... but that hasn’t changed much either, since I am a self-proclaimed “sex expert” on the Vice Pit.

Let me know in the comments what anime you think skirt the line between “fanservice” and hentai. And which ones do you think use women’s sexuality in a positive light?

NEXT TIME: REAL TALK ABOUT HENTAI

Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow @cravesam

zaldaron Nov. 30, 2012 at 3:21 p.m.

hmmm...I think you are underestimating the humor in high school of the dead. I self identify as a horny toad (and have the nalgene bottle to prove it) but that show was definitively supposed to be funny..with zombies. Yes parts of it you are supposed to take seriously such as the men turn into beasts in the final analysis (but this shouldn't surprise anyone - many people when the chips are down would only look after themselves) but even some of these are shown in a good light. The samurai girl is a very well developed character with real and interesting problems. But the show is mostly about humor...I mean the recoil scene....that is just funny no matter who you are!

AURON570on Nov. 30, 2012 at 4:57 p.m.

*looks at article title and subtitle* What the fuck is this? some sensationalist anime news site? Oh wait... Why do I ever expect anything more?

GokaiRedon Nov. 30, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Ah hell! You opened Pandora's sex box now :D
Turambaron Nov. 30, 2012 at 5:59 p.m.
I'll note that Sam's thoughts on Cutey Honey mirrors many views given on Bayonetta and that game's (and character's) depiction of women.
 
I have other thoughts on the relationship between sexism of the audience and the content of the media, but those won't lead to any meaningful discussions here, I'm sure.
sickVisionz moderator on Nov. 30, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.

Kinda agree with Zaldar about HSotD. I'm not sure how one can watch it and think it's supposed to be taken serious. It's got zombies and it's not even like Walking Dead style somewhat realistic approach to it. It's rock music blaring while someone does a spinning forward flip with a baseball bat and knocks a zombie's head off. The whole series reeks (reek in a good way) of some teenage boy's "best zombie apocalypse ever" filled with big boobed girls that love nerds, over the top gore, explosions... and some hot lesbo yuri secret spy action. I just don't see how Sam can take that as a serious show and not the teenage fever dream that it is.

When they used someone's boobs to steady a sniper rifles, that should have been a clear sign that this wasn't to be taken as serious drama.

YotaruVegetaon Nov. 30, 2012 at 6:10 p.m.

I've only ever seen RE: Cutey Honey, so seeing that old Cutey Honey opening is just WOW! Go Nagai didn't give a damn, did he? Also, I didn't know that Cutey Honey could change her complexion as well. That reminds me when Lois Lane or Punisher went black. A more recent example would be the Skin Key in Locke and Key.

The difference between Cutey Honey and HoTD is that Honey is playing off of the magical genre, but HotD is not winking or nodding. It just knows that skin is acceptable within zombie horror, and it's selling its female characters to people who get off to 2d girls.

Destinyheroknighton Nov. 30, 2012 at 6:36 p.m.

Man, I haven't watch Cutey Honey in a long time (maybe I should get the DVD)

Queen Blade

Kiss x Sis

Eiken

I are pretty close to Hentai

Anyway can't wait to see your other about Hentai

Nightwolfon Nov. 30, 2012 at 6:39 p.m.

I'm just gonna skip this and save myself the headache.

Acura_Max moderator on Nov. 30, 2012 at 8:04 p.m.
I guess teenage Sam wasn’t a sexist after all! Maybe a bit of a horndog... but that hasn’t changed much either, since I am a self-proclaimed “sex expert” on the Vice Pit.

Just the sex expert? Wouldn't you rather be the sexpert?

samweller999 staff on Dec. 1, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.

@Acura_Max: Yes, Sexpert with no space between is much more efficient, thank you :)

takashichea moderator on Dec. 1, 2012 at 2:19 p.m.

I'm interested in trying Cutie Honey, and it looks like its fan service is more funnier than Highschool of the Dead. Highschool of the Dead purposely makes fan service ridiculous, and it has both positive and negative reception. I got used to the frequent panty shots and bouncing breasts. Plus, I agree that Cutie Honey caters better to both genders than HOTD. HOTD can make it frustrating for both genders unless you're open minded and have some company to watch it.

For those not familiar, Cutey (or Cutie) Honey (created by Go Nagai) is a female android who transforms into different armors and costumes (mainly fetish related) to combat the evil forces of Panther Claw, headed by her opposite number Sister Jill. Usually accompanied by a male ace reporter and perverted scientist grandfather figure, she often deals with issues relating to her humanity, purpose, and sometimes falling in love.

Hmm, I wonder if Erza Scarlet's armors are influenced by this. There were some cosplay.

Trebelon Dec. 1, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
Awesome article. I definitely know where I am turning my attentions to now.
Eyzon Dec. 3, 2012 at 4:57 a.m.

I love Honey! She's such a Cutie!

alright..now that this lame attempt at a joke is out...

I really love how each of these series are a mark of their respective time.

tristenkw5on Dec. 3, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.

@sickVisionz: So you're saying the teenage boy fever dream includes hitting women to calm them down?

Sam never said HotD was a "serious show", he said it had parts that were meant to be taken seriously, which is different. He knows the show has it's share of humor and everything else, but there are also parts that try to present the ongoing drama as something to not be entirely taken lightly.

I'm not one to be big on the sexism thing, it's a tough argument to nail down. I'm not one to see women take a little violence and automatically deem it SEXIST! However, this seems to be right on the fence. While I'm not saying Sam is 100% right on this one because I haven't seen much of the show personally to have a fair view on this, I can still recognize that "it's not meant to be taken all that seriously" is a weak argument because HotD does not consider itself completely without actual drama. Comedy anime have an easy going tone at all times for the most part even when bad things or situations seem to be going on, and just use those situations to set up more jokes.

Instead of defending the entire show, why not try to justify the scenes Sam pointed out as sexist? Why those specific scenes shouldn't be taken seriously?

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 3, 2012 at 4:15 p.m.

@tristenkw5: Slapping someone as a wake up call is a common thing across all media. I've seen women do it to men, men do it to women, mem do it to men, etc, etc. You guys spin this like he got drunk, came home and beat his wife or something actually serious and heinous.

And yes, this show is ridiculous. It is not to be taken serious. Willy Wonka has some drama but it'd be kinda silly to try and spin it as this ultra serious film that advocates murdering or abusing children in grotesque ways. Even more so to try and spin it like this is a typical example of how children are treated in western media.

Maybe I'm just mistaking these articles. Are these supposed to be look at how anime treat women and the series discussed are a "typical" anime series? Treating HSotD as a "typical" series is flat out wrong imo because it's specifically made to be ridiculously perverse. That is the entire point and is a really poor example of your "typical" anime... just like how something like Hostel or torture porn films are poor examples of how your "typical" western film handles violence.

I also don't get how HSotD catches hell for this yet a show where rape and molesty teacher are presented as hee hee haw haw moments gets a free pass.

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A classic 70s manga and anime created by Go Nagai, featuring an attractive young woman who transforms into a crime fighter.

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