And in the case of Episode 6, Dragons.
WARNING: Here there be Spoilers
Good lord, that got dark, quick. I mean, I was expecting to not have this episode come until near the end. But yeesh. The halfway point? Seriously? Well, all right. And credit where it’s due, they also threw a curveball at us by subverting the events of the original but still also kind of keeping with them. They just changed a few names and circumstances around. Though I’ll come back to that since episode 6 is the real talking point. Episode 5 is really just more of the same.
It turns out the Mayor of the city is in league with the Panther Claw. Though one has to wonder if the Panther Claw can only put on human disguises with Tarantula’s help. If so, that… kinda sucks. Though I guess it’s a convenient power for Tarantula. If she wanted she could probably make people look however she/they wished. But whatever.
So Honey decides to disguise herself as a reporter and get an interview with the mayor in order to confirm this suspicion. In said interview they catch the mayor saying all kinds of completely damning things on tape. And she knows she’s being recorded because they put the thing right in front of her. Even if what she’d said didn’t directly connect her to Panther Claw (which it basically did), no politician of a free country would ever get away with saying any of the crap she did. Release that tape and get the woman removed, dammit!
But no. Instead, there’s some overly elaborate setup where the Mayor is actually the one responsible for the Panther Claw’s funds. So she invites a bunch of businessmen, including Danbei (along with Junpei) to take part in some sort of illegal weapons deal or whatever. Honey and Seiji are along to investigate because the trip is pitched as a resort to lure these people in and keep the deal under wraps.
I can’t help but wonder if this entire bit was supposed to be some sort of social commentary about corrupt politicians. Given how this woman gets away with saying things that should be completely career-breaking. She lies about her platform and uses it to subjugate those who elected for her. Yet, at the same time, there’s this warped logic to it. She seemed to have a genuine hatred of men. But we come to find out that the women she preached about giving opportunities to were just transformed into brainwashed puppets, acting on her will. And she didn’t appear to care about them at all. Conflicting messages, there. But it did provide for a somewhat interesting setup for the conflict – being in a position where the hostages are being forced to fight you.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the resolution to the problem was just so pitiful. It basically boiled down to Danbei and his sons just being perverts to annoy the Mayor and get her to unrestrict them… for some reason. Then Danbei cuts off her whip… antennae… thing and the brainwashed mannequins release Honey, letting her do her thing. I’d be a little more forgiving of this if the following action sequence was interesting at all. But nope. It was just kinda trippy. Taming animals to fight in a weird circus environment? I dunno. Possibly a metaphor for the Mayor running the city like a Ringleader does a circus. Honey transformed into a ringleader or something, so that was also weird. And she ends the fight the same way she always does, which is cool to look at, but that’s about it.
Another thing I’m brought to question, now, is the romance tag on this show. Because that’s there on every description of it. And yet the only hint of it seems to be the implication that Honey has sort of a crush on Gennet (which, of course, is going to end horribly for her). But she may be growing disillusioned with that whole thing, especially after the events of Episode 5. That being said, Sister Jill is eerily obsessed with Honey (and trust me, I will be coming back to that). In fact, it was the primary motivation for this villain of the week – getting Jill’s attention out of jealousy over her obsession with Honey. Seiji isn’t really playing the same role he did in the 90s Cutie Honey anime, where his role was basically tweaked to be a stock Magical Girl love interest. So it ain’t him. That really only leaves Natsuko (especially after episode 6, but we’ll get to that). But they haven’t seemed to be leaning in that direction either. So… it’s just a weird tag to have. If they are referring to Sister Jill’s dark obsession with Honey, that’d actually be kind of interesting. But then… then there’s episode 6 and… hoo boy.
So I’ll get right to the point. Episode 6 is the attack on the school. This was the episode I was most nervous about, going in. To be frank, the entire reason I was concerned was that in most other iterations, Natsuko dies in it. She makes a big, heroic sacrifice or whatever to save Honey. And it looked like the episode would take that route here. It did. But it also didn’t. If it had gone that route, I’ll be honest. I probably would’ve bowed out. Natsuko is the only supporting character aside from Seiji, who is boring, that exists as anything more than a running gag. If she’d been killed, that’d take away pretty much any and all worthwhile character interaction from that point forward. And as I’ve made clear, I’m all about characters and observing how they interact with one another.
The route they actually ended up taking was, frankly, more interesting. Natsuko still has the moment where she worries that she’s useless, hiding while Honey’s struggling in a fight. She springs up from the disguise Honey gave her and tries to draw the bad guys’ attention away. But instead of getting burned alive (because that’d have been dumb and annoying), Honey steps in to defend her again. Then both of them are saved by a still-living Naoko.
In this version, Naoko trades places with Natsuko as the one who makes the real big, heroic sacrifice. At the same time, this doesn’t take away that little bit of development from Natsuko. Because Natsuko did attempt it. She had no way of knowing she’d survive that situation. As far as she knew, she was dead the instant she got out of that disguise. This just works far better to me. Especially given the little flashes we get before Naoko ultimately sacrifices herself for the other two, showing her former gang, who’re all very much dead. It was an impactful moment for her and I’m glad they changed it up a bit because I think it was good for the story. It also gives us a chance to see how this version of Natsuko will react to knowing the full truth about Honey. As well as her dealing with being one of two survivors from the school attack.
But let’s talk about Sister Jill. Up until this point, Jill’s been a fairly underwhelming villain. But I honestly think a part of that is because of the mixed messages she’s been giving off. At times the whole idea of wanting to fill Honey’s heart with hatred and sorrow comes across plainly enough. But then there are times when she seems much more invested in the Airborne Element Fixing Device. When that is the case, she just comes across as blatantly ineffectual. This, however, was an episode that made her genuinely terrifying. And if a brief line from Snake Panther is any indication, she’s not even the big bad – Zora’s still a part of all this. Jill’s the actual Dragon, here. But speaking of Dragons, let’s talk about Tarantula, for a minute. Why in the world does no one listen to her?
Snake Panther reeeally should’ve listened to Jill’s Dragons. Dragon Panther was one thing. But I’m fairly certain it’s been proven, by now, that listening to Tarantula is good for one’s health. I also find it interesting how Tarantula is being portrayed as at least a little more sympathetic. Still evil, but not a complete monster.
Either way, Snake seemingly gets between Jill and her precious Honey, which is a big mistake and she pays through the nose for it… and the rest of her face, as well. This Sister Jill is terrifying and much more effective, in the long run. But you’ll note that she probably didn’t even need the Sister Gennet act to pull this. So that whole angle is still coming across as a little superfluous. But I’ll be glad to see more of this Sister Jill, going forward.
Episode 5 was fine. Perfectly serviceable Junk Food that introduced (though squandered) an interesting moral dilemma. It also had one of the few instances where Sister Jill’s Gennet act actually came across as useful for her purpose of filling Honey with despair. But the real hero of this series, so far, is Episode 6. The tension was high, the action was great, the atmosphere was dark, and the deviations from the previous works actually improved the story, in my opinion. And the attack didn’t come across fridging the school as a means of instigating cheap anger for a stock motivation, either. This isn’t the writer’s being lazy and wanting to come up with something to motivate Honey. This is a sick and twisted character actively trying to plunge the hero into despair. This works. It’s solidly Super Effective. Really enjoyed it. But if you wanna check out something a little (a lot) lighter, read up on our coverage for Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card.
Cutie Honey Universe is currently streaming on HiDive. That’s all for me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.