The first season of Birdy the Mighty Decode was a wonderful surprise; a reboot of a largely forgotten original that actually worked. It arrived without much fanfare or hype, yet it turned out to be one of the best anime series to be released in the UK this year. Hot on the heels of that release comes the UK release of the second season: the imaginatively titled Birdy the Mighty Decode 02. The box and the discs themselves refer to this as if it is the second half of season one – the episodes are labelled 13-26 – but this is in fact a second season, as is revealed by the opening credits. This review will contain some minor spoilers regarding the end of the first season, so if you haven’t already done so, you might want to watch the first season before reading on.
The action picks up shortly after the events of the first season, with the citizens of Tokyo still reeling from the Ryunka incident. Birdy is once again sharing her body with high-schooler Tsotumu, continuing her work as a federation agent while trying to allow the kid to carry on his normal life (as much as possible). The storyline proper kicks off when a gang of alien criminals escape from space-prison and take refuge on Earth. Birdy must track down and capture the extra-terrestrial terrorists; preferably before the mysterious assassin who seems to be bumping them off, one by one, finds her first. In the midst of all this Birdy unexpectedly runs into a childhood friend who has also been living on earth, but whose side is he on?
Whereas the first series started off with some standalone stories before introducing a bigger, more serious plot, the second season makes the decision just to devote the whole season to one long storyline. That doesn’t mean there isn’t time out for lighter moments, with high-school hi-jinks and Birdy’s secret identity as an Idol. This decision would have backfired if the plot wasn’t sufficiently interesting, but fortunately the storyline here is utterly compelling. Devoting the entire series to the single plot line gives the story time to unfold, and gives you time to get to know the new characters. By the time events reach their conclusion, the stakes feel really high, and actions have real consequences.
In terms of plot this provides everything a good sequel should. It builds on the first series to go deeper into the characters (we find out a lot about Birdy’s past and discover her true origin), explores the universe it has created in more depth, and puts the characters in a plot that is at once bigger than before, while at the same time more intimate and emotional. This only really works because the series is so successful at making you care for the characters.
The series delves into some pretty heavy themes; it takes in such hot-button topics as (space) terrorism, (space) racism and the rights and wrongs of genetic engineering. It’s done in such a way though that it doesn’t feel depressing or preachy and makes it a kind of anime equivalent of the recent Battlestar Galactica series.
In terms of animation the series is consistent with (or superior to) the first series. The character designs are attractive and the whole thing has a kind of washed out look to it that gives it a distinctive visual appeal. The music is pretty good too – the opening and ending are standard J-pop, but this series retains Birdy’s signature theme, which often adds some excitement to the action sequences. The animation quality remains slick throughout, with only the occasional sequence where it dips a bit. The action sequences (of which there are many) look great and are excitingly staged. The violence seems to have been stepped up a bit here; a lot of blood is spilt and there is a high body count.
This disc also contains the OAV episode, which was released between the seasons (and bridges the gap). For some reason this is the last episode on the second disc. It’s a nice stand-alone episode, and is enjoyably light after the considerably darker final episode, but if you want to be chronologically accurate, you might want to actually watch it first.
This is that rare thing, a sequel that outdoes the already excellent original. It takes what worked in the first series and runs with it, and the result is an action-packed but very thoughtful sci-fi show, that builds to an exciting but emotionally satisfying conclusion. To anyone who like sci-fi anime; heck, to anyone who likes anime full stop, this is an unreserved recommendation.