Beginning in late 2003, Cutie Honey a Go Go! is a companion manga to Hideaki Anno’s live-action adaptation of the Cutie Honey series. This 2-volume manga was co-authored by Anno, with art and additional story details by one Shinpei Ito. Curiously, while the movie and Gainax anime would go on to become hit successes, Go Go! went largely ignored. In fact, the manga was cancelled only 10 chapters in.
How could a tie-in for such a renowned series, supported by the success of its video counterparts, fail so terribly?
The story of Cutie Honey a Go Go! feels like a discarded draft for the actual movie. Aki Natsuko is a police officer in Tokyo, which has come under terrorist threat by the Panther Claw syndicate. During one of their attacks, Natsuko and her fellow officers are saved by the mysterious superhero Cutie Honey. For her trouble, Natsuko promptly arrests Honey and brings her in for questioning. When this doesn’t go her way, Natsuko takes over the Panther Claw case; hoping that she’ll discover Honey’s true identity along the way.
To be blunt, I felt that the manga was exceptionally boring. And that’s coming from someone who is a long-time Cutie Honey fan. While it resembles the Gainax OVA and movie in plot outline, the characters are far less interesting. Honey lacks her mischievous side, as well as her charm and energy. Her personality doesn’t extend beyond “likes beef bowls” and most of her time is spent standing or sitting around, looking bored.
Aki suffers from a similar fate. She is here depicted as a real bitch, whose single-minded obsession with Honey and Panther Claw endangers everyone around her. She tempts Panther Claw into a full-on assault on her police station, leading to many of her co-workers being killed. None of this fazes her in the slightest and, yes, she will happily pull those same stunts again. This is comparable to her movie counterpart, but Cutie Honey a Go Go! cuts out her entire character arc on account of its cancellation.
On that note, the story does not end gracefully at all. Most of the manga is wasted on frontloading all of the lore and world-building. The early chapters are all about police politics and Aki’s investigation, which serves to reveal the basic elements of the plot. What is Panther Claw? Who is Honey? Who is her dad? Basic stuff that the original anime managed to convey in 10 minutes. Just as you finally get through all that, the setting moves to the academy. A whole new cast of characters must be fleshed out, new lore must be added, and BOOM, suddenly it’s over.
Chapter 10 feels like it should be the start of the story, rather than its conclusion.
Making this even more awkward are the many plot beats scattered around that suggest the writer had far bigger ambitions. Most obvious of these is a roster of sub-villains who are introduced just before the manga’s “finale”. Shinpei even acknowledges in the afterword that he intended to have several more chapters where Honey took these guys on. As it stands, it’s yet more useless background story.
Not even the art is really worth sticking around for. Shinpei’s action scenes are passable, but I got the impression that he was very bad at drawing expressions—especially for women. Characters like Aki and Honey often have blank expressions. They just soullessly stare off into the distance. When they do show some emotion, it frequently looks off or doesn’t seem to match their usual demeanor.
This all leaves the manga with little to really be excited about. It’s short and unfinished, looks utterly mediocre, and its plot was handled far better in the movie and anime. I am baffled that they bothered to even re-release it. Unless you enjoy collecting Nagai’s works (like myself), you can safely skip this one. Hell, even fans could probably skip it considering how little Nagai actually was actually involved in making this.