This is actually the second Birdy The Mighty anime, but you’d be forgiven for never having heard of it. Based on a short-lived 80s manga, the original OAV never made it to the UK, and was released before the dawn of the DVD era. Fortunately no previous knowledge is required as this is a completely fresh take based on the 2003 reboot of the manga, hence the ‘Decode’ part of the title.
Birdy is a female Federation agent – basically a kind of space cop come bounty hunter – who is temporarily stationed on Earth. It turns out that there are a surprisingly large number of extra terrestrials who live on our planet (in disguise, naturally) so in order to catch her latest target Birdy is living undercover. Under the low profile secret identity of a popular idol – apparently a large number of the aliens work in the entertainment industry – she is sent to capture a particularly slimy individual. The story really starts when one of her operations causes her to cross paths with a normal high schooler called Senkawa. By ‘cross paths’ I mean kill, as the poor kid is obliterated by Birdy’s ‘friendly fire’. Fortunately, thanks to some helpful alien technology, Birdy is able to save him by fusing with him, so they share the same body. She basically offers herself up as a ‘courtesy body’, while his own is in the shop (albeit light years away).
This sets up an intriguing premise, that of mismatched characters thrown together and forced to share not only the same living space but the same body. Only one of the pair can be in control of the body at once, but the other is still rattling around inside, watching and experiencing whatever goes on. This means Senkawa gets dragged on Birdy’s dangerous missions, while she must put up with going to school, going on dates or hanging out with his friends, while he attempts to hang on to some semblance of a normal life. While you suspect that most teenage boys would relish sharing the body of a fully grown, well built woman, Tsutomo Senkawa is less than chuffed.
The show is an original sci-fi twist on the ‘buddy cop’ formula, with the pair growing to care for each more as their adventures continue. The characters are nothing unusual, with most of the characters outside the protagonists being little more than stereotypes or genre staples. There is also a rather embarrassing portrayal of a stereotypical gay man that stands out for the wrong reasons. There are however some brilliantly imaginative creations in the alien creatures we encounter.
The design work and animation is pretty top draw for the most part. Disappointingly where the animation quality falls off most are the couple of episodes where we head into space and see the place where Birdy comes from. Though there are some great ideas and characters here, these episodes stand out as the low point of the series. The majority of the series remains pretty much earthbound, and generally the animation is good; especially for the excitingly mounted action scenes.
This release contains the entire first season, comprising thirteen episodes, giving you a lot of bang for your buck. The English dub is up to the usual standard you expect from Funimation; solid but not spectacular. Some people will be annoyed at the way the closing titles are presented (the original version is shrunk down in the corner of the screen, while the English credits play full size), but at least you get to hear the bouncy ending theme in all it’s glory. Apparently this was as US distributor Funimation were not supplied with ‘clean’ credits, which also explains the lack of the usual ‘clean OP and ED’ as special features. This is a minor quibble though, and this release presents good value.
What starts off more of a ‘villain of the week’ type show eventually gets into much more serious and darker territory. While the first section is highly enjoyable knockabout fun, once the story arc proper gets going, it really comes into its own. From the second disc on it becomes surprisingly dramatic. By the concluding episodes the stakes are as high as they come, and the conclusion is both explosive and emotionally satisfying. In an industry increasingly reliant on otaku-baiting moe shows and fanservice fodder, a decent sci-fi actioner like this is more than welcome. Highly recommended.