Jul 12, 2020
It is difficult to review a series like Hutch the Honeybee. One has to consider that in Europe and America the series was heavily edited with almost 1/3rd of the episodes missing. Only 65 episodes were broadcast, yet instead of concluding the first series finale, they added on top of it episodes from the 1974 series too, changing it and making it less dramatic.
In Europe series had another problem. Maya the Bee was already super popular since the 70s-80s and Hutch was shown in the mid-90s. Despite being older than Maya the Bee, there was no way it could hope to surpass it
in popularity, despite featuring even more episodes than Maya. Add also the edits, the later arrival and this series seemed like an inferior copy of Maya and was not as well remembered. Btw the Japanese voice actress of Aya in the second series was also the voice of Maya the Bee!
Irony is that first season of Maya the Bee in Europe was also heavily edited, despite featuring less violence and drama than Hutch, thought some scenes were very tense or emotional too.
Not a great era for freedom of expression on TV....
A review based on the Japanese unedited version will have to scrap the anime most remember in their childhood, making it necessary to rewatch it in its entirety. This also does away with the feeling of nostalgia, because I review it as an adult
First let me add some facts:
I got the mux of the Italian dub. Series contained 91 episodes. I counted how many episodes did not include a dub: 31!
31 episodes were edited out of a 91 episodes series, more than 1/3rd! Though I noticed some episodes not translated to Italian, had an Arabic dub.
All episodes are sad and serious for a kids series but in this case they had to omit the episodes with the more controversial topics.
Though this was not the sole reason. In some cases there was a continuity issue where an episode showed excerpts from a cut episode, so there was no way they could dub it.
This affects the background story of a major side character later on, since one episode devotes some background info on him.
Some other cut episodes include content that would have caused quite a reaction on European and American TV.
-kids and adults beating the elderly
-a son killing his father
-girls and boys that become friends with Hutch, die
-parents dying in front of their children
-children dying in front of their parents
-mc sometimes becoming too violent himself
-boy hitting his father
-characters getting tortured or dying while working as slaves
-a girl getting beaten and robbed, yet she lies in order to protect the guy that did this to her.
-predatory birds dying a violent death due to electrocution
-genocide mainly caused by human intervention, eg pesticides, child insect collectors, road work, pollution, bags made out of insects etc
-an insect child, successor to the throne, getting born with mental disability because of a prank
-bees revering a bee keeper as their god, even showing their angel souls rising up
-a mother torturing her fragile and bullied child to make it tough
-in one episode I noticed that the dub toned down the voices of some wasps that were heard to be eaten by spiders. In the original, actors screamed with all their might, making it more similar to a horror movie!
1974 series has some cruel episodes too, especially in the beginning, though series is not as good, lasting only 26 episodes and with a rushed ending too. Introducing a rival there did not work out as well.
Overall it would have been an emotional rollercoaster for a child to watch such a cruel series. Even as an adult I had to shut off my emotions in many cases. This was simply too much.
One reason such a series would never be shown today, especially in its entirety.
To the particulars:
for a 1970s series and with so many episodes, they had to make some concessions to everything. Character design though is very good and charming, never failing to win the viewers sympathy. Even as an adult I liked some of the characters. As a child that loved insects, I'd have adored it. 1974 series is significantly better in that department, though with less episodes. But one has to take into account that they tried to portray the various birds, some insects, animals (dogs, cats, rats, moles, bats etc), snakes, and lizard predators as realistically as they could.
Music, sfx, dialogue:
This is what makes the series shine. This has to be one of the best 70s series in that regard. All dialogues are full of expression and transfer the character's suffering to the viewer, both old and young. Music is also very touching and dramatic where need...bee. It can become lyrical too, like it happened with many 70s kids series. Sfx are well taken care off. The predators especially the birds have their own distinct creaks and they even added cicadas and the sounds of human tools are also heard. You can hear the background sfx like crickets at night too.
With very few exceptions, most episodes are standalone. Despite the big number of 91 episodes, very few were boring or uninteresting. Every episode had something new to offer and as one would expect, most would end up in a dramatic or tragic way. No setting remains static, character travels through various places, interacting with the insect world and experiencing the cruelty both from insects, humans and other animals. In the end series gets a proper conclusion. One reason I thought the sequel was really unnecessary, still it was decent so as not to ruin the first series.
MC is Hutch, his mother and later his sister Aya. In the sequel they also add a ladybug and a rival, a wasp boy. Still I preferred the fewer character of the first series. I liked Hutch because unlike other kids series, he is by no mean perfect. He has his shortcomings and occasionally is revengeful and laughs with the suffering of others. Yet in the end he always manages to reconcile with others and himself via all the suffering and cruelty. I think this is the most important lesson the series gives and it was so tragically edited and changed in the dub.
I would recommend the series, problem is to whom.
-Viewers of the old edited series will want to remember it as they saw it, without many tragic scenes and a different ending, although the true one. A better alternative would be to watch other Tatsunoko series like Demetan or Pinocchio, since they at least remained unedited in the dubs.
-Kids? It is way too heavy, tragic and serious for kids today and so out of touch with today's cartoons and anime. Plus that design and animation will seem too crude. For older cartoons, Mr Bug goes to Town is a much better option and of course the obvious choice, Maya the Bee, that is far less violent but only in the second season.
Best option would be the first "documentary" , the 1920s movie of Maya the Bee with real insects!
-Viewers interested in old Japanese animation without edits? Only in this case will I recommend it. Notice that so far those episodes are untranslated and will likely remain so for a long time.
Series served its purpose showing the 70s kids about the toughness and cruelty characters had to face, mainly with Hutch but also with Demetan the Frog. Yet in the end they always had hope and looked forward. In a sense Hutch, unlike Demetan, came far too late, almost 20 years later. TV landscape had changed and it was one reason this shock factor would not work out, hence it was edited.
If you want to see what is the difference between a Japanese and an American or European kids series, you have just to look for the first series of Hutch the Honeybee.
What did you think of this review?