Cutie Honey, as she appeared in "Re: Cutie Honey" from 2004.
"Honey Flash!" That was the famous phrase Cutie Honey said before transforming into a different form.
Cutie Honey has been "rebooted" many times since her debut in 1973 in the manga publication of Weekly Shōnen Champions. Because of this, her origin story has changed slightly and drastically throughout the years.
Her most common origin used in many of her iterations has her as an android with special powers to transform herself to give herself better skills depending on her situation, and as a way to disguise herself in some of these instances, as well.
Her most common transformations includes:
Hurricane Honey, which consists of a skin-tight motorcycle outfit, mostly used to escape or chase a mobile enemy, or when she needs to get someplace in a hurry. In addition, there always seems to be a convenient motorcycle that appears. It's unclear if this is part of the transformation.
Misty Honey, who is a rockstar form capable of singing and using her microphone as a weapon.
Nurse Honey, who is dressed as a nurse and acquires the knowledge of healing or tending to someone who's injured, as well as sneaking into hospitals unnoticed.
... and Cutie Honey, her normal fighting form, which is usually her main form she uses when facing an enemy for the final time.
Her first TV series, simply titled "Cutie Honey", debuted in 1973 and was one of the first "magical girl" shows to air on Japanese television. Those who don't know, "magical girl" shows usually involve girls or young women who have the ability to transform and fight their enemies, a good example being the girls in the popular "Sailor Moon" series. To make the show appeal to boys and men, some action scenes were added to the anime as well as female nudity during the transformation sequences, which became normal in later anime TV series and films.
After the show's and manga's ending in 1974, Cutie Honey would not be seen again until nearly 20 years later, this time in the form of an eight-episode OVA series titled "Shin Cutie Honey", or "New Cutey Honey" as it was called in the United States. This would also mark the first official taste that U.S. audiences got of Cutie Honey, as ADV Films obtained the rights to distribute the OVA series in North America.
Shin Cutie Honey was treated as a "sequel series" to the original, and takes place about 30 years later after the events in the original series. In the first four episodes of the OVA series, Panther Zora, the main antagonist from the original series, is being resurrected by another evil villain, and Honey must "awaken" and put a stop to it. The final four episodes of the OVA series follows a "villain-of-the-week" type of approach, which has Honey facing a different unrelated foe in each episode. A 90's manga series also coincided with this series, but with different stories and enemies.
Later, in 1998, an attempt to reboot the Cutie Honey franchise came with the series, "Cutie Honey Flash". It was a retelling of the original series, with some additional characters as well as some removed characters. However, the stories and nudity were toned-down dramatically in this version to appeal to younger audiences. Sailor Moon was also one of the hottest shows on television and was wrapping up around this time.
Cutie Honey would leave the pop culture scene once again for a while, but not quite as long. Six years later, in 2004, a Cutie Honey live-action film was released to hype people up for the new animated series coming later that year.
The live-action film, simply titled "Cutie Honey", was another reboot, but instead followed Honey as a young adult in the working world. She had an office job by day, and transformed into Cutie Honey whenever Panther Claw showed their faces. Later 2004 brought about the new three-episode OVA series, titled "Re: Cutie Honey", which loosely followed the events in the live-action film.
Another live-action version would be attempted a few years later in 2007, this time a 26-episode TV series. Once again, this is another reboot following Honey as a young adult with the major new element being Honey has two android sisters that she joins forces with in the later episodes. Panther Claw is still the major evil organization Honey fights against, but this time it has four different evil leaders which must be defeated.
2016 would bring the next incarnation of Cutie Honey, which is the most different of them all. "Cutie Honey: Tears" released in Japanese theaters in October 2016, and follows an android named "Hitomi" in a bleak future where the rich and powerful people live in highrise luxury buildings while the poor live on the polluted and toxic streets in poverty. One of the powerful people, named Sister Jill, has a plan to eliminate the poor on the ground, and Hitomi must awaken her true powers in order to stop her.
Cutie Honey's latest series as of this writing comes in the form of "Cutie Honey Universe", which was released on Japanese television in 2018, and only spanned 12 episodes. This series is, yet, another reboot which loosely follows the same format as the original Cutie Honey series, however the investigator Cutie Honey teams up with to investigate the Panther Claw crimes has a secret identity of her own.
So, there you have it! A brief history of the Super Android, Cutie Honey. An anime heroine who has been rebooted at least five times for different audiences throughout the decades, not counting the live-action adaptions.
Is it a good series? It depends on who you ask. Many mainstream anime fans would probably say "no", but Cutie Honey has generated a great cult following throughout the years. For a franchise that is approaching it's 50th anniversary, it has left an impact among many generations, whether you enjoyed the series or not.