#1 A shoujo reimagining
While Cutie Honey was an early entry mahou shoujo series, its intent was always to be subversive and mold the genre into a form that was more appealing to boys. With its brutal violence, sexy protagonist, fan-service, and action-packed storylines, the original Cutie Honey was hardly a show in the same trend as other magical girl series at the time.
Flash looks to correct that. It’s the same general story about Honey, a student at a Christian boarding school, discovering that she has special powers and fighting back against the criminal Panther Claw syndicate, but its presented very differently. everything about it screams shoujo now, with the most obvious change being the softer artstyle and prettier character-designs compared 1994’s New Cutie Honey
Characters are also much more expressive and this goes accompanied with storylines that aren’t afraid to get emotional or even romantic. Whereas Panther Claw was just generically evil in prior seasons, now they are actively working to steal beautiful objects as sacrifices to their matriarch, leading to storylines like villains trying to disrupt a wedding to steal the bride’s dress or staging a heist for the world’s largest ruby. Honey herself also has more interest in romance now, with Seiji (given a bishounen redesign) getting a rival in the form of a mysterious, white-haired prince who aids Honey throughout the story.
The Sailor Moon influences are a bit obvious, with Honey herself this time feeling like a mix between her original self and Usagi Tsukino. That’s not a bad thing, though, and the story develops in an interesting direction of its own.
#2 Magical Girl action
While much has changed to make Cutie Honey more appealing to a female audience, a lot has also remained unchanged, especially when it comes to action. Each episode still sees Honey taking on hordes of Panther Claw goons, culminating in battles against their monstrous officers.
It’s as exciting as ever to watch Honey cut her way through these foes while throwing around witty jokes. To accommodate the female audience, the gore has been toned down a fair bit, but this doesn’t take away much (if anything) from the excitement of Honey’s battles. On the contrary, with the addition of MANY new transformations on top of old favorites, the action is fresher than ever before.
Cutie Honey Flash also manages to up the stakes when it matters, with big battles like those against Sister Jill or Honey’s new rival in season 2 pushing her to her limits, sometimes even forcing her to retreat because she is truly outclassed. I enjoyed watching bad guys get completely gored in the 1973 version, but Flash managed to feel more intense at times than any other entry in the franchise.
#3 Extended storyline
While I loved every season of Cutie Honey before and since Flash, there is no denying that the story has always been rather compact. Panther Claw was always some generically evil force, Sister Jill its de facto leader, and Honey was going to take them on solo. Flash both expands on this existing story while also adding entirely new elements to it.
The episodic format of the original series is still in tact, so each episode has Honey battling one of Panther Claw’s villains with Sister Jill looming overhead. However, the overall story is now more clearly separated into major arcs that each bring something unique to the table. This allows Flash to have seasonal finales that spread the exciting peaks of the story across its 39 episodes, and it means that those episodic stories can be used to push the overall plot forward more frequently.
Especially the final arc was a blast, as Panther Claw brings in elite forces from across the world. These bad guys all get a lot more development than the typical mooks and the eventual battles between them and Honey are some of the coolest parts of the series.
#4 Time for school
The boarding school that Honey attends has always been a comedic touch to her story. Deep down she did love the place and its people, but she also tried to escape it at every opportunity to have her adventures. It’s her beacon of safety between all the battles and crime-fighting, and Flash plays around with that concept a lot.
We see Honey attend class, she has a club she is invested in, she has friends & classmates, and the place isn’t as strict as it used to be. The angry old teacher Miharu is still there and always looking to punish the girls, but the rest of the faculty seems pleasant and supportive, with Danbei being rewritten to be the school’s goofy principal instead of being Seiji’s grandfather. Rather than being somewhat-annoying comedic relief characters, now these are an actual, endearing support cast, so we actually care when they get caught up in the crossfire of Honey’s quest for vengeance.
Season 2 has a sublime addition to this dynamic by introducing a character who becomes a bully to Honey. She physically and emotionally torments her, while maintaining a cute facade and dressing up the “accidents” in enough plausible deniability. How does this bully wield such power when Honey is a literal superhero? Well that would be spoiling things.
#5 Measured sexiness
Honey was always a heroine with a lot of sex appeal to her. She fights bad guys while wearing a revealing costume, dons other sexy disguises, and frequently had to deal with foes tearing at her clothes during battle. Even the opening song was a compilation of her clothes being ripped off and people perving on her, and that is fine. It was a very boy-oriented show and Honey was still a powerful character who fought back, even if her costume was in tatters and she was barely covering up.
Naturally, this has been dialed back for this shoujo take on her story, but it’d be disingenuous to remove it completely. Honey enjoyed looking sexy and her character was entirely designed around this idea. That opening song, lewd though it may be, was all about her unrivaled beauty and style. You can’t just remove all of that and end up with a show that is still the same enough to be part of a franchise.
Her iconic outfit has thus been left unchanged and the same applies to many of the alternate costumes she transforms into. These are still the same sexy designs and they still get damaged in battle, it’s just rarely to the point of full nudity and even the most dire situations allow her to cover up or are mildly censored.. The show even keeps some of the sexually-tinted comedy, like boys gawking at Honey during her transformation sequence, and even features a fairly erotic villainess not seen in the other adaptations. It’s just less-reliant on these jokes and sex appeal in general to keep the audience engaged.