Japanese Title: Tetsuwan Birdy Decode
Related: Birdy the Mighty (old OVA version)
Similar: Parasyte -the maxim-
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)
- Surprisingly good.
- Complexity of alien relations.
- Birdy is a fun character.
- Audio mixing issues.
- The guy is too ordinary.
Birdy Cephon is an intergalactic officer from the Space Federation working on Earth to find her target, an alien disguised as a fashion worker. To that end, she remodels herself as ‘Shion Arita’, fashion idol by day, officer by night. The target is within reach when it all goes wrong. She accidentally kills Tsutomu, a high school boy that happened to be in the building, and in her distress, she takes his consciousness into her body with the hope her people may be able to restore him. Until then, they have to balance his school life with both her jobs, all while keeping the dual residence a secret. More aliens are on the way.
When I first saw this setup, I resigned myself to an average series, something pleasant along the lines of Noragami. You have ordinary guy with extraordinary girl in high school for hijinks thanks to the ability to swap appearance back and forth, and the occasional villain to vanquish. The humour made good use of the scenario – when he annoys her, she initiates a punch against herself, swaps bodies, and he takes a fist to the face. They soon travelled to her home world, a nexus of alien civilisations with the Space Federation, where she initiated protocol to restore his body and she faced punishment for his destruction. I like the alien tech, such as the ships and the city – I anticipated an earthbound adventure only. These were pleasant surprises, but they returned to Earth sooner than I would have liked and the ‘ordinary’ settled in.
I had heard conflicting reports of Birdy the Mighty: Decode for years (the reason it’s on my list to begin with), and I started to feel which side I would fall on. Once the plot gets going, however, and all the typical body swapping jokes and secret identity scenes are out of its system, Birdy the Mighty: Decode captured my attention. This change starts when an alien entity merges with one of Tsutomu’s friends, raising his personal stakes and delivering a heartfelt narrative. The main villain of the season, Shyamalan (I can’t find confirmation if this is a play on the Hollywood director), also steps up. His pure evil heightens conflict further.
The first season ends with significant ramifications, which the second season uses to full effect. A group of alien fugitives are in disguise on Earth for Birdy/Tsutomu to capture. However, rather than be typical evil-only villains, they have shades of grey that creates a complex web of relations. Some ally, some turn on each other, and some even want no part of the whole affair. Then other villains want to kill these villains. And a friend of Birdy’s adds yet another knot to the plot.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode goes from predictable to engaging and far more violent than the colourful art implies. If anything, it adds too much in season two. A few sub-plots don’t have much to them since there simply isn’t enough screen time for everyone. Also, though we do return to the alien world, it’s still not as much as I would like. This nexus reminds me of Mass Effect’s Citadel, which is my favourite location in that game.
Lastly, Tsutomu never grows into a deep character, despite all efforts. He’s not harem level, of course, but the writer fell for the trap of thinking that an ordinary character meant bland. Birdy makes up for it with her sense of fun contrasted by her violent backstory as ‘Berserker Killer Birdy’.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is by no means excellent, yet it does just enough to put it above the middle tier of comfortable anime. This was a pleasant surprise.
Art – Medium
Can you believe this stylised art came for A-1 Pictures, the studio of blandness? This was before they ran out of creativity. The ‘weak’ line work makes the colours pop and the animation is great most of the time, but the character detail is too low by today’s standards. I still like the style and texture.
Sound – Medium
Season one has a serious audio mixing problem. You strain to hear the dialogue because it sounds as if everyone whispers, then a sudden moment of action blows out your eardrums. It’s been a while since I experienced an anime with this problem. Be careful of the ED, which is at twice the volume of the content. That said, I enjoyed the music when it wasn’t trying to kill me.
Story – High
A boy merges with an alien girl after she accidentally blasts him apart, dragging him into her world of alien criminal hunting and intergalactic relations. A patchy first season doesn’t stop Birdy the Mighty: Decode from weaving an engaging plot in the second.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: For sci-fi fans. I didn’t expect to like Birdy the Mighty: Decode – you may have the same experience. Don’t bother with the old OVA version (unless you love awful dubs).
Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)