「あなただけに尽くします」 (Anata dake ni Tsukushimasu)
“Devotion to You Alone”
The level of ambition in Cutie Honey Universe‘s story is at its highest with the direction that Sister Jill is heading. Rather than the standard mission to obtain Honey’s device by defeating or destroying her, Jill’s motives are far more calculated and sophisticated. With em>Universe, Sister Jill wants to play the long game, and lets the cat out of the bag that her goal is to mentally break Honey to the point that she would willingly submit to Sister Jill and give her the device by choice. It’s a far cry from the Jill of old who would stop at nothing to make sure her henchmen destroyed Honey, but it’s a welcome change in that it offers a fresh new take on her character that is far more methodical. As a result, Jill ends up being a scarier threat as her mind games do extensive damage when she’s embedded herself in Honey’s life with her double role as Genet. Their exposure to Sister Jill is non-stop as her role as Genet gave her an opening to terrorize Honey and Natsuko by presenting them with roses that cause them to think back on the previous episode where the Panther Claw killed their classmates and teachers. She is also throwing off the other Panther Claw as well with Tarantula being taken aback by how much reckless abandon she has to make sure they keep Honey alive, effectively giving most of them a death sentence if they are either overpowered & killed by Honey or killed by Sister Jill for seemingly killing Honey. It raises the stakes for those trapped in with both Genet and Jill since the security of those who surround her is no longer guaranteed as she seeks out her desire to watch Honey squirm long enough for her to willingly rid herself of her device.
The linger effects of the terrorist attack on Honey is also unique as we are given a different take on how Honey is able to cope with the tragedy she is faced with. Whereas her father’s death was her wake-up call to take up arms to avenge him, the death of her friends and teachers still heavily weighs on her as the personal responsibility she takes for everyone’s deaths is overwhelming. She’s strong enough to hide her feelings and keep a wide grin in the face of adversity, but whenever she’s brought back to the tragedy, it takes a hold on her. The post-traumatic stress she faces comes in waves as she is taken aback when news coverage and groups of schoolgirls remind her of what happened that day, and comes at full force when she’s presented with roses. The sight of a red rose puts Honey in a state of shock as she has an intense panic attack over the trauma she faced that day, and gives us a once-in-a-blue-moon moment where we see the hero of an action anime have to face off against panic attacks they develop from personal tragedy. It’s also at this point where I feel like it would have done more service for the show to have someone with some visual umph to their output like Yuasa Masaaki helming it to fully encapsulate the trauma that Honey is facing. There’s some artistic flair in the episode itself, but it feels shackled to it’s low budget rendition of Go Nagai’s style that it doesn’t feel like it captures the fluidity of these segments as well as they could’ve been.
The episode is also molding Natsuko into a larger role as she takes it upon herself to try to figure out any way she can to help Honey when she’s going through a worse time than she wants to admit. Operating off of her suspicions of Genet, she goes out of her way to try to pry out information about Genet’s motives. In the midst of it, she is automatically tipped off as she offers her and Honey a bouquet of red roses, setting her into a catatonic state before she heads out. As Natsuko finds herself vulnerable to Genet eventually losing her cool, she also learns about Honey’s secret in holding the device that the Panther Claw are so keen on hunting down. With all of this in mind, Natsuko is in a tight spot as the knowledge she knows and Genet’s suspicions being raised about Natsuko’s personal investigation could definitely put her in danger. Whether it’s perilous for the very last friend Honey has is anyone’s guess.