「あなたは希望を持ち帰る」 (Anata wa Kibou o Michikaeru)
“You Will Return with Hope”
So all this time, the aforementioned Universe in the title was alluding to a war where all of Honey’s allies return to transform into Honey herself, creating an army of Honey’s to take down Sister Jill. It was an interesting twist, and went down a neater path than having Honey once again get punched down in a state of shock. Honestly, if anything felt unearned, it was how everyone came together to band under Honey for any reason other than taking down the Panther Claw Syndicate once and for all. The reboot had reached a point where Honey kept hitting a wall, either shutting her friends out of her personal life and neglecting to tell them anything she has planned or risking several mental breakdowns because she was facing her struggles alone.
Your standard functional action series that preaches the power of love and friendship would typically have the main hero or heroine learn to place more trust in those around them, making their final, love-fueled attack immensely powerful because of the love they grew to accept. In this, her allies are desperately trying to reach out to her while she accepts their help begrudgingly, not wanting to risk them getting killed as well. Instead of learning not to shoulder her burdens by herself when so many people love and adore her, this iteration of Honey has to accept that she has friends that can help her out or at least point her in the right direction towards where she needs to be. It should’ve been hammered home when Natsuko’s efforts to let Honey know about Genet were growing more apparent, but those efforts ended up being in vain as Honey didn’t get the jump on the Genet lead until Sister Jill cut the act.
Although it was forced for Honey to suddenly use the power of love after weeks of dodging anyone’s input, it was still an enjoyable way to end the reboot as they were able to get the Hayami’s and her other surviving friends together to disguise themselves as Honey to offer her aid. It was also cool to see Naoko was strong and tenacious enough to resurrect herself along with her friends to kickstart the big final battle between the Honey’s and Panther Zora, who just kinda showed up around the end. The story ended on a decent note as well with the academy being rebuilt so she can join her friends, albeit bittersweet since Natsuko couldn’t join her in the new academy.
It hurts to say that Cutie Honey Universe is one of the most accurate adaptations of the manga and, at the same time, loosely adapted in a way that didn’t do the series justice. Some of the new twists and turns started out unique like Sister Jill being a double agent or having Panther Claw members that jump ship once they get a change of heart about their leader. But as time goes forward, it tries to be as faithful as possible to key points in the manga like the St. Chapel Academy attack and Natsuko’s demise that it feels like a mismatch to fit them all in with the newly added plot twists.
They also didn’t give the main characters enough depth to work with as Honey is written to be too dense to catch onto details and closed off from everyone else to the point that it makes her look careless in the face of her friends who are concerned for her. You want to like Honey because she has plenty of potential with the cute, spunky personality she starts out with, but as she faces tragedy and adversity, she is withdrawn and shows a lack of concern for Natsuko or the Hayami’s until its too late. The artwork also fluctuates between being artful and creative or disjointed and lacking in quality even if it does a decent job at replicating Go Nagai’s character designs. It’s also admirable in how much of the original ideas were retained like the homoeroticism of the series’ girls or adding in quaint comedy bits in between. The tone can be odd at times, but it does have a classic charm to it to see the show transition into comical fanservice. At the end of the day, Cutie Honey Universe would be worth seeing as a recent rendition of the series, but it’s flaws make it frustrating to see as it had far more potential than it could work with. Hopefully, the renewed interest in the series can lend itself to newer renditions along the way too akin to how Re:Cutie Honey came about, but for now, this’ll do.