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Case Number 20388: Small Claims Court

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Birdy The Mighty: Decode

Birdy The Mighty
2008 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Birdy The Mighty
2009 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Funimation
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // December 24th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Roman Martel knew Birdy back when she was known as "the sheepish."

Editor's Note

Our review of Birdy The Mighty: Final Force (Volume 2), published September 9th, 2004, is also available.

The Charge

The question before us is simple: Is Birdy as mighty as the title would have us believe? Let's dig in and find out.

The Case

I'm actually familiar with Birdy in her OVA incarnation from the late '90s. It was one of the last anime titles I viewed on VHS. Not too surprisingly this television series has taken the basic elements of the OVA and expanded on it.

In the first season of Birdy the Mighty Decode, Birdy (Luci Christian) is a Federation police officer chasing down some alien criminals. These dastardly goons make it to earth and go into hiding. But Birdy doesn't let that stop her, she goes incognito as a human model named Shion Arita, taking fashion photos by day and pursuing leads by night. Eventually Birdy tracks down one of the criminals to an abandoned building, where a couple of human teens just happen to be exploring. The criminal resists arrest, Birdy goes all mighty on him and in the havoc she accidentally chops Tsutomu Senkawa (Micah Solusod) in half. Whoops. But not to fear, Tsutomu's body can be repaired, his mind just has to be housed somewhere else for a while. So Birdy volunteers to have Tsutomu in her body until it can all be straightened out.

You can see where this is going right? So by day Tsutomu tries to be a normal high school teenager. By night he's trapped in Birdy as she goes out hunting down the alien bad guys and a deadly super-weapon that could destroy the earth.

One of the things I love about animation, and anime in particular, is the ability to take genre conventions and mix them all together, shake them up and then spew them out into a big gooey pile. Sometimes you get something so awesome you can hardly stand it. Other times you get a bit of a mess, but something worth checking out. This first part of is one of those rare exceptions where the end result just isn't that interesting.

This series is brimming with potential. But it never really achieves anything it hints at. You've got possible comedy with the gender switching hijinks. You've got alien action with super-weapons. You've got teen romance between Tsutomu and Sayaka (Brina Palencia) a young woman who should have died in a car accident but miraculously survived. There's rogue robots. There's massive destruction of property. There's even a ghostly urban legend episode. With all this stuff going on, you'd think something would come forth as the key element to make this show fun.

It never really happens. That's not saying that Birdy the Mighty: Decode is a bad show. It's not at all. The basic elements all work fine. The story makes sense, and actually gets engaging near the end. The characters are all stock, but they don't annoy you. However, that's just it. Nothing really stands out. You've seen all these elements before and done a bit fresher or more interesting than you're seeing here.

The whole body switching element seems really wasted in this half of the show. I was thinking it would be used for comedic purposes, but not really. It actually comes in handy a few times when someone is pursuing Birdy and she wants to escape: a flash of light and she's Tsutomu. Other than that, you end up with one of the characters talking to themselves and sometimes looking a bit foolish. Was this done to save animation costs? By the end of the series the focus has shifted to Tsutomu and his relationship to Sayaka and how it ties in with the alien plot. This is actually compelling and you kinda forget that Birdy is even in the show. It seems odd to spend a couple episodes setting up the whole body switching element only to find it intrusive later in the story.

There are also a couple filler episodes in the series that really don't advance the overall alien storyline. They do give Birdy some more time to kick butt and show us a few extra elements of character. But really they seem to take away from the momentum of the series and keep it from charging forward like a good action show. This season also introduces us to a bunch of supporting characters who barely have an effect on the overall story. Some of these folks play a bigger part in Decode 02 and maybe were fan favorites in the manga, but here they just waste precious story time.

In the end, the creators should have picked a focus for the season. Because they seem to want to cover all the bases they end up never really engaging the viewer. It's not funny enough to be a comedy, and doesn't have enough battles to be an action show. It's got a romance heavy ending, but fans of that genre will be bored by the first half. Director Kazuki Akane did a much better job with the genre bending Vision of Escaflowne.

Birdy the Mighty Decode: 02 picks up a month after the events of the first series end. Tsutomu is still stuck sharing his body with Birdy. Luckily the Federation was able to discover the criminals who were behind smuggling the super weapon to earth. As these criminals were en route to a galactic prison, they are rescued and end up on earth. Of course Birdy is assigned to find these fugitives and bring them in. During her investigation Birdy runs into an old friend from her home planet, Nataru Shinmyou (Eric Vale). At first it seems like a happy coincidence, but when the fugitives start dying before Birdy can apprehend them, she begins to wonder who's side Nataru is on.

Wow, what a difference there is between the two series in the story department. Since we don't have to muddle with the origin story, we can jump right into the plot with the fugitive aliens and the two forces hunting them down. The set up is great. As Birdy is debriefed on these aliens you wonder just how tough it's going to be to apprehend them. Then they start getting mutilated by another alien and you start wondering if Birdy is going to be able to save these fugitives, or herself if she gets in the way.

Tied up with this is a delving into Birdy's past with Nataru. The two were close friends as children, but something happened that forced them apart. You get little hints of the story from both characters and during flashbacks. It becomes obvious pretty early on that Nataru has something to do with the murders and you can see its going to lead to a direct confrontation with Birdy.

The wild card in all this is Tsutomu who is watching all this unfold and still trying to be a normal high school student. But he's also Birdy's friend and as her past becomes more obvious the affect on the friendship and how he reacts to Nataru are intriguing.

While the first season ended up being focused more on Tsutomu, here we get a lot more information about Birdy. She's an interesting character, enthusiastic and dedicated to justice, but still affected by her past. Some of this came up a little bit in the first season but its enhanced in Decode 02.

The season isn't perfect. There are still loose ends left by the conclusion and some of those characters who were left dangling in Season One still have no resolution here. Was a third season planned? Maybe, but at this time this is all we get. Don't get me wrong, there is a conclusion to the story, but there are also a bunch of hints left that the alien storyline isn't complete, and of course all the interpersonal high school relationships have room to grow.

A word about the English dub cast: they did a great job here. Luci Christian is excellent as Birdy. She captures the spirit of the character perfectly combining toughness with a devil may care attitude. Then she takes that voice and tweaks it a bit when playing the alter ego Shion Arita. Shion's a bit of ditz and Christian is hilarious in the part, especially when doing the "Next Time on Birdy" segments. Finally Christian also provides the voice for young Birdy during the flash backs in Decode 02. She goes beyond just pitching her voice higher, but adds a bit of innocence to the role.

Micah Solusod plays Tutomu well. It's pretty much the straight-man role, but he does it well. He gets to play some solid emotional scenes in both seasons (but really gets put through the ringer in Season One). Solusod's part is vital to making the show work, even if it isn't as showy as Birdy.

The supporting cast does a good job all the way around, providing a wide range of styles especially in a show the varies so wildly from romantic drama to slapstick comedy.

Funimation gives Birdy a solid release. The picture quality allows the colors to pop and the darkness of space to look nice and black. The English dub sounds great in 5.1. Sadly there are no extras, a commentary track with Luci Christian would have been great, especially considering her stellar voice work. One final note about the DVD, the final episode covers events that take place between seasons one and two. So really you should watch it before you watch Episode 14. You aren't missing anything vital to the plot, but it does provide some additional set-up to some of the new supporting characters in Season Two. No idea why Funimation put it as Episode 26, but there you go.

This is a tough show to come to a final decision about. The second season was really good, and I whipped through the thirteen episodes. But the first season was a bit of a slog, because it so familiar. Still you need to see the events in Season One to appreciate the impact of Season Two. You need to ask yourself, am I willing to sit throughout 13 mediocre episodes to get to 13 exciting and well-executed ones? If the answer is yes, then check out Birdy the Mighty: Decode.

The Verdict

Birdy is acquitted. She starts off less than mighty, but comes through in the end.

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Genres

• Action
• Anime
• Comedy
• Foreign
• Science Fiction
• Television

Scales of Justice, Birdy The Mighty

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Birdy The Mighty

Studio: Funimation
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Birdy The Mighty

• None

Scales of Justice, Birdy The Mighty

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Birdy The Mighty

Studio: Funimation
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Birdy The Mighty

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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