One aspect of Birdy to appreciate is its straight-forward narrative. This first season effortlessly introduces us to a comical central cast that make for interesting on-screen chemistry. And along with such hilarious antics, an imminent but elusive threat to humanity gradually comes to the fore. There are no obvious metaphors or social commentaries to muddle the story. This first installment of Birdy the Mighty: Decode is beautifully simple. Its a sci-fi/teenage romance/gender bender/save-the-world scenario that offers one thing only: entertainment with no strings attached.
Tsutomu and Birdy.
Birdy, an extra-planetary policewoman, is in pursuit of Basiliss and Geega, two thieves who've made off with an enigmatic but unfathomably powerful parasite called the Ryunka. They manage to escape to Earth and Birdy follows them there, but she loses their trail upon arrival, as they do a good job of disguising themselves amidst the human population. She spends the next six months in disguise so that she can continue the investigation unnoticed. And one day, she finally receives intel as to the whereabouts of the suspects...
Tsutomu Senkawa, a modest high-school teen, is supposed to explore an abandoned building with a couple of his friends. At the last minute they ditch him, and Senkawa instead continues in the company of a fellow female classmate, Hayamiya. They discover that the building isn't abandoned at all; Birdy has managed to lure Geega to the site and a battle ensues. As Senkawa and Hayamiya try escaping, he is apprehended by Geega and used as a human shield. Birdy, in the midst of the hectic brawl, accidentally kills Senkawa. With her suspect having escaped and a death on her hands, Birdy resorts to the unthinkable: Senkawa's consciousness is preserved in her own body while Birdy's police force repairs his physical body. The show revolves around Birdy and Tsutomu's attempts to coexist peacefully within the same body, while at the same time continuing the search for the Ryunka before it becomes a threat.
Tsutomu suffering the wrath of Hayamiya.
Tsutomu differs from the typical male lead in an anime: he's not hopelessly ambitious and driven by unwavering principles like Ichigo from Bleach, or Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto, or even Kamina from Gurren Lagann. He's also not a complete wimp and a loser like Sekirei's Minato Sahashi. Tsutomu is balanced and level-headed, and without a tragic backstory to ruin his everyday living. He's a good counter to “Berserker Killer Birdy,” who wants to do good but uses methods that always result in collateral damage.
The early interactions between Birdy and Tsutomu are hilarious. They share a single body which can change to look like whoever is in control at the time; this allows for Tsutomu and Birdy to continue their lives as they normally would. But the only way they can communicate is through verbal speech, which results in Tsutomu usually shouting or mumbling to Birdy in public. People often stare and react to his comments because they assume Tsutomu is talking to them. We've all met strange people like that, usually in the subway or on a public bus. It definitely makes for more interesting journeys...
Hayamiya and the rest of Tsutomu's classmates are also a very good supporting cast. Hayamiya is an old friend of Tsutomu's, and with an assertive yet caring attitude she often motivates him to take action and prevents him from becoming an otherwise simple – and therefore boring – character. She and the other characters occupy a large amount of screen time, and do so without seeming too intrusive.
Sayaka, Tsutomu's love interest.
On another note, the animation was decent and provided adequate visuals for the story. The artwork was loose and didn't rely heavily on shadows for spatial effects. On occasion the art vacillated between tighter linework and looser linework; sometimes it did so arbitrarily, and these moments were conspicuous enough to be distracting. But overall the art was okay.
During action scenes, character details are lost in favor of very loose drawings that almost blur figures and allow them to become fluid. It's a style not too far removed from the work of Kazuto Nakazawa, who animated The Animatrix's “Kid's Story,” and designed the characters for Samurai Champloo. It works beautifully for action and I appreciate the appropriation for Birdy.
A Motley Crew of Villains
Birdy the Mighty: Decode has an eclectic cast of villains, which makes it hard to distinguish who the viewer should be wary of. There's Basiliss and Geega, who initially came to Earth with the Ryunka in posession. They had dealings with a man named Gomez, of the same race as Birdy, who works for a mysterious client named Revi. Geega and Basiliss also worked for an entertainment mogul named Shyamalan, who caused the most trouble as far as awakening the Ryunka's powers. But Shyamalan seemed to be a pawn of Gomez and Revi. There is also a pink-haired Federation agent from Birdy's planet who ensured that the Ryunka found a suitable host in Tsutomu's girlfriend, Sayaka. But this agent's relation to the other villains was left as a mystery entirely. To be fair, Birdy the Mighty is an established manga franchise, first emerging in the 1980's and then remade in 2003. Characters such as Gomez and Revi were in both versions of the manga. When it comes to manga being adapted into anime, I don't believe the viewer should be responsible for researching any background information for clarity. It's a common occurence among anime and it's a habit I'm not fond of.
Sayaka controlled by the Ryunka.
Shyamalan, the central villain for this season, is something of a mystery himself. As the sole survivor of a terrorist bombing long ago, Shyamalan developed the notion that there are elite persons in this world, a select few destined to rule above the rest and rain judgment. The Ryunka would separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. I didn't realize how ordinary a villain he was until I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, whose villain similarly wanted to nuke the planet and eliminate the weak through a modern – albeit man-made – natural selection process. Shyamalan's motivations are pretty simple if not one-dimensional. But if this first season of Birdy is to serve as an entertaining intro to the Birdy narrative at large, then Shyamalan satisfies such goals.
At the end of the day, there isn't too much that needs to be explained about Birdy the Mighty: Decode. It's a show one has to see for themselves before any judgments are made. There's no especially mind-blowing plot twist at the end a la Inception style. One watches it because it calls attention to itself. I rhizomatically compared Birdy to Mission Impossible, a Hollywood blockbuster, because Birdy similarly seeks to cut to the chase, throwing away any preachy notions and tangental metaphors in exchange for, well, a spectacle. And it does this very well.
Birdy Cehpon Altera, our titular character.
*I watched Birdy the Mighty: Decode for free at Hulu.com. Birdy was animated by A-1 Pictures and produced by Aniplex.
- Elijah Lee