What do you get when you cross elements of Ranma 1/2 with science fiction? One heck of a show, that's what!
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is one of the latest releases from FUNimation to hit our shores and its arrival was worth every minute of waiting. The first part features 13 episodes on two DVDs, and there's a second part currently available as well. The series has 26 episodes and comes from A-1 Pictures, which is a part of Aniplex. It was originally released in 2008 and is based on an anime property that was an OVA from 1996.
The show follows the exploits of Birdy the Berserker Killer. She's a badass agent from a federation of galactic intelligence and comes from a race known as Altans, who just so happen to resemble humans in nearly every way. Intergalactic travel is part of the job and on one case in particular she finds herself tracking down some criminals who smuggled a powerful weapon of mass destruction known as the Ryunka. This weapon has the capability of destroying whole worlds and when it finds its way to Earth, naturally Birdy is hot on the trail.
Here on our planet she has set up an alias of sorts in the form of a sexy Japanese idol. The reality is that she is one of several aliens hiding out on the planet, and we get to see many others along the way. Completely oblivious to any of this is a high school kid named Tsutomu, who just so happens to have a fateful meeting with Birdy one night in an abandoned building.
You see, Birdy was chasing the criminal responsible for the Ryunka's delivery and Tsutomu got in the way during the fray. With fists and weapons flying all around Birdy accidentally kills Tsutomu in the heat of battle. The next day, however, Tsutomu wakes up in his bed like nothing happened. I mean, sure he doesn't need his glasses, which is strange, but things seem to be okay. Until he hears voices that is.
As it turns out Birdy managed to save Tsutomu's consciousness in her own body. They share a dual existence and can switch between each other at will. The other is aware of what's happening at all times and for the most part Tsutomu is Tsutomu when he's in that form, and Birdy is Birdy. It's a fascinating mechanic that gives the series a unique vibe and adds a twist to the role the main characters play in terms of development and plot.
As the series progresses the story gets continuously more engrossing as elements of Tsutomu's life come into play with regards to the existence of the Ryunka. The motivations of characters and the relationships gel within the confines of the story, and ultimately the series is quite satisfying; at least in this first part.
There are some downsides to the show and they do prevent the series from reaching levels it should have. For starters the pacing is a little wonky. There are parts in the show where it moves at breakneck speeds and jumps from one butt-kicking scene to the next. Then there are points where it simmers down and features drawn out dialogue and stretches where nothing happens. More of a balance between these moments would have gone a long way to making the show feel more complete.
The other downside to the show is the antagonist isn't developed enough to feel like much of a threat. He's more of a Cigarette Smoking Man kind of guy and really seems to just be some shadowy figure doing what he wants to do in the sidelines. There's never a face to face meeting between the powers of good and evil, and the show kind of throws in a big scary monster at the end to draw viewer's attention. It just felt a little weak to me after experiencing the first 3/4 of the show.
These minor reservations aside, Birdy the Mighty: Decode is a very entertaining series. It's packed with action and humor and when it works, it works really well. I can't wait to dig into the second half of the show and see where the creators go from here!
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks vibrant with colors that pop from the screen and clean details all around. Sometimes the design is gorgeous, and at other times it's a little looser than I would like, but it's all part of the lively style the series was given. The DVD transfer has a bit of grain and is a touch softer than we'd like to see, but altogether it's not a bad presentation by any means.
Birdy comes with English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and Japanese 2.0 Stereo for its audio output. Both are adequate in terms of what they offer, but the English cast doesn't hold a candle to the Japanese, in my opinion. Where the English does have the upper hand, is with its technical merits. The soundstage is a little more robust during the action sequences, and that counts for something. Otherwise both tracks are rather front-centric.
Bonus features for Birdy the Mighty: Decode Part One include clean animations and trailers.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode was a show that I had been anticipating for a while now. I'm pleased to say that, for the most part, it lived up to my expectations. It was a fun science fiction piece with plenty of action, humor, and a compelling plot. The characters are what sells the show though, and Birdy and Tsutomu are quite the dynamic duo. Considering this show Highly Recommended.