Tag Archives: Hideaki Anno

CAPSULE: CUTIE HONEY (2004)

AKA Cutie Honey: Live Action

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Eriko Satô, Mikako Ichikawa, Jun Murakami, Eisuke Sakai; voices of Carrie Keranen, Eva Kaminsky, Vinnie Penna, Madeleine Blaustein (English dub)

PLOT: A naive, upbeat female superhero battles the alien organization “Panther Claw” after they abduct her professor uncle, while simultaneously trying to keep her temp job and find a true friend.

Still from Cutie Honey (2004)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It is weird, in that Japanese pop way, but it’s also extremely lightweight, and we have to draw the line somewhere.

COMMENTS: “She’s that trendy girl/The one with the teeny butt… She’s that popular girl, the one with the bouncy boobs.” So goes Cutie Honey‘s theme song, which omits any reference to her crimefighting abilities. Our first view of Honey is of her soapy legs and feet in the bubble bath. She gets a phone call in the tub, learns her uncle is abducted, and has to rush to the scene of the crime—only she has no clothes available, so she runs through the street in her underwear, partially covered by a trash bag that doesn’t conceal much. Her regular crimefighting costume features skintight black pants and a heart-shaped cutout for her cleavage; during her off hours she favors midriff-baring mini-skirts and stiletto heels. Somehow, the camera always finds that the upskirt angle best captures the energy of the fight sequences. But, even though Cutie’s body is relentlessly sexualized—virtually fetishized—the story never compromises the innocence of her character. Cutie herself has no sexuality; she seeks only harmless friendship, and any impure thoughts others might have about her stem strictly from their own corruption. (The bosses clearly get an erotic charge out of battling her, especially Cobalt Claw, the vampire dominatrix Honey defeats with a searing embrace). Japanese movies have a way of pulling off this innocent fanservice without making it seem too skeevy, and director Hideaki Anno’s background in anime clearly served him well in the endeavor.

Former swimsuit model Eriko Satô’s considerable physical appeal aside—and to be fair, she does do a nice job rounding out her character between all the cheesecake shots, locating Honey’s legitimate grrl power—Cutie Honey is a wild, electric affair, one of the best live-action translations of anime style. Anno even splices in some brief, stylized animation at times, such as when Honey dodges Gold Claw’s missiles in the sky or hurls Scarlet Calw’s energy beam back at the villainous supergeisha. Of course, reality is a distant cousin to the characters of this world, and they’re not really on speaking terms. Panther Claw’s human henchmen dress in snazzy black Zorro-inspired uniforms, carry golden guns, and generally act like disposable buffoons from Adam West’s “Batman.”  The big baddie—Sister Jill—is some sort of tree goddess who eats virgins, and her tuxedo-clad butler wears eyeliner and a very fake mustache. There’s also a giant holographic uncle. And what would a weird Asian movie be without out-of-place musical numbers, including some drunken karaoke from the three principals, plus a quartet of henchmen playing violins as Black Claw croons a jazzy mid-tempo challenge (your toe will tap as he sings “for the sake of my own happiness, please wither away beautifully, baby.”) Cutie Honey is like an extended sugar-rush episode of “Power Rangers,” if the solo Ranger was played by a teenage pop star who dresses like a hooker.

The “Cutie Honey” franchise began life as an ecchi manga, then became a more innocent animated children’s TV series in the 1970s, followed by various video and television revivals of varying degrees of naughtiness. This feature version was followed by a live-action TV series, with a new live-action feature film scheduled for release in October 2016. Hideaki Anno, of course, is best known around here for directing two separate “Evangelion” anime series; we’re still awaiting the final installment of the second series, which seems to have stalled since Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo rolled out in 2012.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…those who like their films with a distinctly Western sensibility should be warned – Cutie Honey is loaded with trademark Japanese kookiness, and is at times just plain weird.”–Craig Villinger, “Digital Retribution” (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by a reader whose comment was lost in a server crash years ago. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: EVANGELION: 3.0 YOU CAN (NOT) REDO (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Hideaki Anno, Mahiro Maeda, Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki

FEATURING: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Yuko Miyamura, Akira Ishida

PLOT: 14 years after the cataclysmic events of the previous film, humans are barely surviving on a barren earth. Evangelion pilot Shinji Ikari wakes up from a coma to find himself at the center of a war for the planet’s future.

Evangelion-3.0-Big-Rei

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Though this is the weirdest so far of the Evangelion reboot movies, it can’t really be recommended out of context of the other films. The series’ mixture of convoluted plotting, infuriating ambiguity, and biblical skewering is bizarre enough to make it recommended anime viewing, if not List-worthy on its own.

COMMENTS: In a gutsy narrative move, Evangelion 3.0 completely upends the established structure and tenuous stability of the first two films, introducing a host of new ideas and assigning new roles to major characters. It begins by immediately throwing the audience into the action, offering no introduction for the great space battle populated by Evangelion units, a massive experimental hovercraft, and horrific space angels. (Not that it matters, since the sequence is jaw-dropping even without context.) Shinji—and thus, the viewer—awakens to a confused, damaged world completely without the false sense of security found in the previous installments. Everyone is scarred, everyone is scared, and no one will give Shinji a straight answer, so he is batted about between these warring factions without any explanation as to what is going on. For the most part only newcomer Kaworu (a fellow Evangelion pilot with his own troubled past) seems interested in even talking to him, and the two quickly forge a deep bond that seems to replace all of Shinji’s questions as opposed to answering them.

With so many new plots and subplots and a steadfast refusal to explain almost anything, this movie is as infuriating a watch as it is compelling. For once I was sympathetic towards the whiny, ineffectual character of Shinji because his confusion and self-centered moaning were completely justifiable: for him, everything is terrible and nothing makes sense, plus everyone he’s ever loved is either dead or not speaking to him. Due to the utter lack of exposition, the visuals become paramount, and the animation and design are truly a sight to behold: colorful and kinetic during action sequences, broad and at-times painterly during still moments. The intricate technological design, impressively cinematic settings, and thoughtful character design are all at their height here, and the animation bests that of the first two films.

It is in many ways a disorienting experience, piling on so many strange ideas and characters, referencing events and concepts that are never given much elaboration, but Evangelion 3.0 manages to be intellectually engaging as well as emotionally intense. The events of the previous entries are necessary to understand the full impact of this film’s events, especially the characters’ relationships and, of course, the “Third Impact” that destroys most of the earth. While it is typically frustratingly obtuse, there are certain moves forward in plotting, certain mysteries solved. Of course, for every question answered a thousand more rise in its place, and there are still so many unresolved or untreated issues. Shinji ended the film just as much a self-absorbed brat as before, so involved with his own actions that he sort of neglected to notice how his new co-pilot had become a central, destructive figure in this whole mess. So the audience is left with as much knowledge there as Shinji himself, who never stopped to ask what was going on because he was too busy whining. As usual.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Once upon a time in the ’60s, a critic would have known exactly what to say: that the gorgeous, cacophonous anime sound-and-light show ‘Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo’ should only be watched in an altered state. That would be a serviceable approach to a film that too often substitutes obfuscation for complexity, to relax and drift along on the often-spectacular, pulsating visuals.” –David Chute, Variety

CAPSULE: EVANGELION 2.22: YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno

FEATURING: Spike Spencer, Allison Keith-Shipp (English dub)

PLOT:  Following the events of Evangelion 1.11, the Angel incursions against Tokyo-3 increase

Still from Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance (2009)

in intensity, and two new teenage Evangelion pilots are integrated into the NERV defense team.  Also, the world ends, I think.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  What to do with Evangelion?  A combo teen soap opera/end-of-the-world saga starring giant robots, the series is weird, but in a way that’s actually sort of conventional (in anime terms).  Even worse, there are now four movies (and a long running TV series) telling essentially the same story—with two more on the way.  Should all the movies make the List?  None?  Only the weirdest one?  Whatever the case, I don’t think this installment is capable of being counted among the best weird movies ever made; but I’m also thankful we get to defer the issue until we’ve checked out the series’ entire run.

COMMENTS:  Here’s a typical battle between an Angel (periodically appearing bad guy) and an Evangelion (giant robot that can only be piloted by a teenager).  Battleships fire pink and yellow shells at the Angel, a wire-frame robot with a pendulum hanging between its legs, as it marches towards them, instantly freezing the blood red sea with every stride and leaving a huge snowflake as a footstep.  It shoots laser beams from a globe and blows the battleships, causing the scarlet water to erupt into cross-shaped spouts.  A warplane drops a giant robot (hereafter “Eva”); it evades the green-tipped black lines the Angel fires at it as it falls.  The Eva blows up the Angel with a gun, but it immediately reconstitutes itself.  The Eva next stomps on the Angel’s laser-firing spike, which causes translucent pink and yellow auras to fill up the sky.  Eventually the Eva’s foot forces the spike all the way into its command globe, and the Angel explodes into a pink cross.  Each melee shot lasts for a second or less, increasing the confusion as to what the hell is supposed to be going on.  In Evangelion Angels can take any form, including scuttling robots with dinosaur-skull heads and 1970s-era Pink Floyd laser light shows, and they operate according to rules that are never explained.  (I’m fairly sure the Angels have no actual protocols Continue reading CAPSULE: EVANGELION 2.22: YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE (2009)

CAPSULE: EVANGELION 1.11: YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE (2007/2010)

DIRECTED BY: Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno

FEATURING: Voice actors

PLOT: Tokyo-3 is under assault by mysterious robot-like creatures known as “Angels”; two

Still from Evangelion1.11: You Are (Not) Alone (2010)

teenagers pilot the mechanical Evangelions that are the only things that can defeat the invaders and save humanity, while simultaneously dealing with pop quizzes and high school bullies.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  How do you assess the weirdness of anime, a fantastical genre in which underage nude sexpots with powder blue hair and blood red eyes don’t raise an eyebrow?  An average anime is pretty damn weird to the uninitiated, but like other specialized subgenres (such as the kung fu film) anime follows its own conventions.  Once the seasoned viewer internalizes those rules, the resulting films don’t look quite so strange.  That means that, to be considered as a candidate for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time, an anime needs to be weird even by Japanimation’s exalted standards of oddness.  By reimagining stock giant robots as avenging angels in a mystical scenario worthy of a pop-art Book of Revelations, but embedding the messianic tale within the ordinary travails of an extremely wimpy high school freshman, Evangelion 1.11 nearly vaults over this raised weirdness bar.  The hurdle this particular film can’t quite overcome, however, is the fact that it’s incomplete, only part I of a planned “rebuild” series of four movies—and that there’s already a previous entry in the franchise it’s remaking that reputedly blows 1.11 away with its bizarreness.

COMMENTS:   Forget the plentiful, and plenty spectacular, duels between giant robots.  (Obsessive fans of the series may stress to you that neither the Angels nor the Evas are technically giant robots, but don’t be fooled: if it looks like a giant robot, clatters like a giant robot, and shoots death rays from its fingertips, it’s a giant robot).  Set aside the fantastic visions like the giant mutating cube that drops a diamond drill bit into downtown Tokyo-3.  Even overlook portentous (pretentious?) lines of dialogue like, “The Apocrypha of the Dead Continue reading CAPSULE: EVANGELION 1.11: YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE (2007/2010)