Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honey Honey's Wonderful Adventures

Can a European teenager and her cat find love and happiness while being chased throughout the world by a mysterious thief and four ethnic stereotypes in the wild and wacky days before World War One? That's the question asked every episode of HONEY HONEY, the show that kept many of us glued to our cable TV sets in the early 1980s!

HONEY HONEY began as a manga success from the pen of shoujo mangaka Hideko Mizuno - perhaps the only female resident of the famous Tokiwa "manga apartment house" in the Toshima district of Tokyo (other residents included Fujio-Fujiko, Shotaro Ishinomori, and some guy named Osamu Tezuka). She would later go on to critical and commercial success with FIRE! But before FIRE! there was HONEY HONEY. Or as we like to call it, "The Wonderful Adventure Of Honey Honey".

Honey Honey and Phoenix share a manga moment; Flora fumes

Honey Honey's manga appeared in "Ribon" in 1966 and ran for several years; Mizuno's Tezuka influence is obvious but there's stylish, breezy fashion to her pen line, moving away from the rounded kiddy look and towards the more ornate style we'll come to see as "shoujo". Though HONEY HONEY is set in the early 20th century it's not slavishly devoted to the period; Honey's 60s' bubble hairdo is kind of a tip, but the series itself refuses to take ANYTHING seriously. Animated in 1981 by Kokusai Eiga-sha and broadcast on Fuji TV, the cartoon emulated its star by making its way around the world and onto American TV sets.

Honey Honey children's book based on episode 6

Honey Honey herself is an orphan, working in a Viennese restaurant just trying to make ends meet. One day while serving a gigantic roast turkey, a white cat leaps into the restaurant and into her life - chased by a gang of cops, royalty, and various stuffed shirts! As it happens the white cat happened to be hanging around outside the royal palace where Princess Flora was entertaining suitors with her fabulous new gem, the Star Of The Amazon. Annoyed by the constant parade of weak-chinned Euro-trash, Flora stuffs the ring into a fish and hurls it out the window, proclaiming to one and all that whoever finds the ring shall win her hand in marriage. Well, when you're a hungry cat and a fish falls from the sky, you eat every bit of it, including the ring inside. Hence the gang of well-heeled cat chasers, and the white cat's furious leap into Honey Honey's face, and the trajectory of the giant roast turkey as it is delivered with more than customary speed. And thus we begin the Wonderful Adventures Of Honey Honey.

Far from the typical shoujo soap opera of tragic romantic misunderstandings, HONEY HONEY refuses to take itself seriously. The bumbling, pompous, stereotype suitors, the hair-trigger temper Princess Flora, and Honey Honey's willful troublemaking as she careens wildly across Europe make for fine viewing. Pulp adventure is represented by the Makio "Harlock" Inoue-voiced Phoenix, the mysterious masked thief who swings in to rescue Honey Honey just when he's needed most (we'll be seeing more of his type of character later in "Sailor Moon"). Is he just after the Star Of The Amazon, or does he harbor feelings for Honey Honey? This enrages Flora, who lusts after Phoenix herself and can't understand why he won't come to his senses and propose to her.

Furious Flora, Herr Gustav

Geronimo, Oil Dollar, Pika Pika: The Stereotype Squad

In the meantime Flora has to deal with Herr Gustav, King Pika-Pika, Sheik Oil Dollar, and Native American tribal leader Geronimo, who chase Honey Honey around the world and occasionally double cross each other trying to find that white cat so they can get married to Princess Flora. Honey Honey herself, though voiced by CANDY actress Matsushima Minori, isn't a typical shoujo heroine. She'd rather bum around Europe than be a princess, won't stand for cruelty or injustice, and woe betide anyone who dares to threaten her beloved Lily. Paying lip service to the Mauve Decade time period, HONEY HONEY never lets historical accuracy get in the way of sight gags, culminating in a King Kong-referencing final episode complete with 1970s skyscrapers.

Phoenix breaks the fourth wall

The journey begins as Honey escapes Vienna via balloon. Landing in Venice, she helps a young couple elope and winds up in Rome, thence to the Swiss Alps and a William Tell adventure. Then to Munich. Heidelberg, Amsterdam, Brussels. Paris, Orleans, Arles, and the Grand Prix in Monaco. Escaping by boat through the Mediterranean she arrives in Barcelona and hurries to Madrid, Toledo, Gibraltar, Lisbon, and London, where she meets both a long-haired guitar group and Robin Hood. 

Herr Gustav's Dream Wedding (Ring Bearer Phoenix and Flower Girl Honey sold separately)
It's also in London where, with the assistance of the King, the Star Of The Amazon is removed from Lily. Hey, that's the end of the show, right? Wrong. Kidnaped by Vikings - yes, Vikings - and taken to Norway, Honey learns she is actually heir to the throne of Priscilla, a tiny nation overthrown by the usurper Slag when Honey was an infant.

The evil Slag

Far from being a thief, Phoenix is really a secret agent working to restore the rightful rulers to the throne of Priscilla. Kidnaped by Slag's ninja-style raiders, Honey is taken to his secret castle in Russia. Escaping with the help of a flying saucer (used as an explanation for the Tunguska Explosion in Siberia) Honey travels to Moscow and south to Constantinople, where both she and Phoenix are sold into slavery. Phoenix is bought by Princess Flora, and Honey is left to become the latest addition to a sultan's harem.

I Dream Of Honey

It's not so bad for Honey because she gets to dress like Barbara Eden and help with magic tricks, and she gets a flying carpet which takes her to India and Japan and Los Angeles and finally to the show's climax in New York. By the time the series ends three different groups are chasing after Honey Honey for three different reasons and when the show wraps with a giant ape climbing a skyscraper holding Princess Flora, we take it all in stride.

I don't think anybody saw this coming.

Plenty of boy cartoons are watched by girls, but HONEY HONEY may have been the first girl cartoon watched by boys, in America anyways, after the show somehow made it into English and onto Pat Robertson's CBN cable network. Dubbed by "Sound International Corp." along with LEO THE LION, HONEY HONEY was broadcast in the vital Sunday noon timeslot that, unless you're sports, is ignored by all. The offices of "Sound International Corp" are now occupied by a chemical company. At the time I happened to notice LEO in the TV listings and the family VCR was sitting idle waiting for somebody to re-run STAR BLAZERS. Why not check it out? I was pleasantly surprised to learn LEO was the sequel to KIMBA THE WHITE LION (the first episode I saw helpfully featured a flashback to Leo's younger days) and, relaxing in the afterglow of my viewing discovery, decided to check out HONEY HONEY. I knew of an anime called CANDY CANDY, maybe this was a re-titled English dub? No sir, HONEY HONEY was its own thing. At first I didn't give it much attention, but after a few weeks the anything-goes style and Perils Of Pauline melodrama had its hooks in me.

Western-style Flora and Slag menace Honey in the manga

Comparing the original comics to the TV series, we find the anime begins faithfully but takes a sharp left turn somewhere in the middle of Europe. Blazing its own trail, the story is sometimes dicated by the writers and sometimes by the show's early cancellation - an extended American sequence involving Hollywood, Old West cowboys and Indians, and Chicago gangsters was excised. The storylines where Honey Honey becomes a judo champion in Japan and Honey's adventures on the Titanic also got axed. Thankfully, the manga's original ending among the jungle tribes of Africa also did not surface to embarrass us all on television.
The Great Honey Honey Dynamite Chase

The animation itself is a mixed bag. Kokusai Eiga-sha ("Movie International Company") produced animation utilizing a wide variety of sources involving a wide variety of skill levels, from beginning students to seasoned veterans. A list of their series reads like a secret history of Japanese animation - the J-9 series BRYGAR, BAXINGAR, and SASURAIGAR; the treasure-hunting ancient astronaut series ACROBUNCH, highspeed robot sportscar GALVION, Mission Outer Space SRUNGLE, ecological disaster robot series BALDIOS, Greek mythology comedy LITTLE POLLON, motorcycle racing drama FUTARI DAKA, robot boy comedy DOTAKON, and their own version of Little Women, FOUR SISTERS OF YOUNG GRASS. Like most other Kokusei Eiga-sha series, HONEY HONEY is now available for distribution from Enoki Films. HINT HINT EVERYBODY, RELEASE THIS SERIES ON DVD ALREADY.
episode 22 Honey

HONEY HONEY itself is typical Japanese animation television; clunky in parts but zippy when deadlines and budget allow it to flourish. Episode 22, "Snowbound Castle", was the high-water mark for the show; character designs are kawaii-ed up, animaton becomes fluid and expressionistic, and things just get cartoonier in general.
Yes, it's sharp.

After its CBN broadcast HONEY HONEY vanished into the mists of time. Sony Home Video reportedly released the first four or five episodes on VHS, along with other 80s titles like Curious George and "Video 45s". I've only seen evidence of the first episode myself. More than two decades later the Sony release remains the only legacy of HONEY HONEY in the United States (it was more popular in Europe, as are all Japanese cartoons). In Japan the show failed to capture an audience; perhaps a little too old fashioned for a 1981 audience, who probably asked the question we have asked, why is a 1966 manga JUST NOW getting a TV anime show? What's the deal with that? As anime fandom grew in the United States few remembered HONEY HONEY; unless you were paying a lot of attention to basic cable on Sundays in the middle of the 1980s it simply did not register. Even LEO THE LION got a few public-domain home video releases in later years, but nobody wanted to deal with HONEY HONEY. "Sound International Corp" disappeared, my letters of inquiry unanswered.

As a matter of fact I do own this cel.

In this era of total availability, where everything has DVD box sets or torrents, it remains an elusive quarry. But in a way, that fits the series perfectly - we're still chasing HONEY HONEY.

Episode guide: some of these are from the American titles and some of these are translated or transliterated from the Japanese. If you have every episode of the series in English with the title cards intact, please drop me a line.

1. The Cat Ate the Diamond
2. Much Ado About Water
3. See Naples and Escape
4. SOS Alpine Express
5. The Red Arrows of Berne Forest
6. Hamelin is Full of Cats
7. The castle of Lovely Cats
8. Windmill Vane Phoenix
9. Only One Can Be our Sun Princess
10. Cinderella Tonight
11. The Witch House of Orleans
12. Circus Rooster
13. The Blue Hurricane of Monte Carlo
14. Cathedral Bells Ring
15. Smile, Madrid
16. Fortress of Gibraltar
17. World's Best Sponge Cake
18. Lily's in Big Trouble!
19. Honey Run! 20 o'clock
20. Secrets of Honey
21. Honey Kidnapped
22. Snowbound Castle
23. The Great Science Fiction Chase
24. Prince Menace
25. Lily Sold
26. Magic Departure
27. India Flying
28. Flora's Great Flowers
29. Hello, Goodbye, New York (last episode)

special bonus: Honey Honey in Hollywood! Spot the cameos.

Honey also visited Japan. Trigger warning: white girl in kimono

-Dave Merrill

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Carl said...

That pic from the manga of Phoenix tipping his hat is choice. I see the manga was reprinted in 2006 as 419-page (complete?) edition; I'll have to look into getting it.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Hmmm, maybe I outta give Enoki a call. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, for some reason I had this confused with "Lady Lady". I also had no idea how insane this is.

I want to see this now.

Anonymous said...

How the hell did you get these wonderful pictures and do you have the original series on DVD?

d.merrill said...

How the hell did you get these wonderful pictures and do you have the original series on DVD?

I taped the show off CBN in the 1980s, and I bought the manga and the children's book in Tokyo last August. If it's ever been released on DVD I'll be very surprised.

Salvatore said...

I just watched the OP on Youtube. I died when Honey randomly crashed into a dinner table. I really, really want to watch this.

I looked up the staff, and was surprised at the names I saw. Takeshi Shirado, Yugo Serikawa, and Masaki Tsuji! Wow! Most of the staff seems to come from Toei.

honeyfan said...

One Great old show - the dub is stupid/awful enough to be absolutely hilarious!!

I have the SONY tapes and can help you out with first 6 correct dub titles - they are not that much different...

1. The Cat Ate the Ring
2. Much Ado About Water - n/c
3. See Naples and Run
4. Alpine Express
5. The Red Arrow in the Woods
6. Hamelin's Many Cats

Merill: If youd trust me with your tapes (or even copies) I would put them all on nice DVDs just to get the chance to see all the episodes... AND distribute to some of the regulars on this board - they in turn could do likewise and some fans would get to enjoy Honey Honey again, or for the first time.

d.merrill said...

Honeyfan, you should email me at terebifunhouse@gmail.com and we will discuss a Honey Honey swap!

Chris Sobieniak said...

Nice to see someone has more than the one tape I managed to find a while back!

Anonymous said...

For those interested, the first episode is up in Japanese on Youtube.

Anonymous said...

Hi, there is one tape for sell in Ebay. I want to buy it, but i don't know how to use ebay.
That japanese dude who uploaded first honey honey episode in japanese said me that he is looking hardly more episodes, after those japanese tapes are his mothers, and she watched the whole series in her childhood. That guy is trying to find rest of the tapes and upload them un youtube. If there is anything you want to ask me im the uploader of "Honey honey's wonderful adventures opening" in youtube (Sakuma17). Just send me a message and i will respond.

Susie B said...

It's been a couple years, but I emailed Enoki to ask if there were any plans to put the episodes on DVD and was told that there was no absolutely no intention of releasing this on DVD. Although if enough people ask, maybe they'll change their minds

birdchick said...

Thanks so much for writing this up. I've described this cartoon to many people and everyone looks at me like I'm crazy. I used to watch this and Leo the Lion on CBN on weekdays before I went to school. In the afternoon they showed Davey and Goliath, Dot and Inspector Gadget.

This entry brought back some fond memories and it's nice to know that someone watched this weird ass anime besides me.

Anonymous said...

I really thought I must have been the only person in the world that remembered this old show.Even back in the 80s when I was a kid I realized how quirky and crazy it was and I loved the show for that reason. I also watched it early in the morning before school on CBN. I would love to see it again,maybe Enoki will come around someday. Thanks for some great memories!

Whyteroze28 said...

I also used to watch this before school... it was the only thing that made me want to get up in the morning. I remember the scene where Honey had to walk across burning coals, and her birthmark shows up.
Has anyone heard anything more about it, or maybe someone could contact kissanime and see if they could put it up on their site.

protoman20xx@gmail.com said...

Hello. I see from some of the above comments that some may have some of the VHS tapes or select episodes from the English dubbings. I am actually trying to make a 1980s Halloween compilation and I was wondering if anyone had the English-dubbed "The Witch House of Orleans" episode so that I might include it in my compilation. I could arrange a trade if someone has it. :)

Fra X said...

Questo curiosamente non l' ho mai visto! Mappete il cattivone diavolesco! XD

Ryan Gunwitch-Black said...

I could have sworn Honey had a tiny dog and a ridiculously large dog. I know i remember this show because I have always said Tuxedo Mask was a rip off of a character named "Phoenix". What am I confusing this with?

d.merrill said...

Ryan, you might be thinking of Lun Lun the Flower Angel - Lun Lun has a little cat and a big dog as companions... http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1390

janithDK said...

where can i find this DVD,VHS or online ?

d.merrill said...

The first episode is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewR1fByiJ7c

Unknown said...

I was one of the voice actors who recorded many characters, including Geronimo, on Honey Honey. Others were Gustavo Rex, Tom Kouchalakos (Cocoon) and JJ Wilson. Sound Intl belonged to Enzo Caputo here in Miami where the series was dubbed by us.

d.merrill said...

hey, Geronimo voice actor, please don't vanish! I would LOVE to interview you! Email me - Dave Merrill, this is my blog - at terebifunhouse@gmail.com and I will send you some questions!

FlowerbellBunny said...

Thank you for writing this. It always makes me happy when people write about Hideko Mizuno. She is a very underrated artist here in the western part of the world. My favorites works from her are this, Hoshi no Tategoto, and Fire!. I have a question though. Is your version of the manga the one with full color pages? If so, which edition specifically and can I have a purchase link (preferably Amazon Japan?). I'm trying to track down her works.

d.merrill said...

Hey FlowerbellBunny, the edition of the Honey Honey manga I have is this one: https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/h549018742 - it's a 2006 edition I picked up at the Mandarake in Shibuya. It has some color pages but most of the book is black and white. (bought all of Fire! at Nakano Broadway on our next trip to Tokyo).

KVG said...

Hi, anybody have the Honey Honey episodes or know of any place to see them onine?

d.merrill said...

since this article was published, several episodes have been uploaded to the Internet Archive - you can find them with this URL: https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22honey-honey%22