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Birdy The Mighty: Decode Part 1 UK Anime DVD Review

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Birdy the Mighty: Decode, Vol. 1

What They Say:
Birdy is an interstellar space agent sent to Earth to investigate the appearance of aliens under the secret identity of a popular Idol. A frantic late night mission causes her to catch an innocent schoolboy in her deadly line of fire. Thanks to a special space technology, Birdy knows a way to restore his life by joining their two bodies into one. Now Tsutomu and Birdy must share the same body, mind and adventures while his broken flesh slowly heals.

The Review:
A reboot / spinoff of from a 1996 OVA series, Birdy the Mighty: Decode follows Federation Investigator Birdy Cephon to Earth, where she’s trying to secure a doomsday weapon, the Ryunka, that’s been hidden here. And where doomsday weapons go, trouble is never far behind…

Audio:
Audio is provided in both Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. There’s good use made of the available channels during action scenes to provide appropriate direction to what’s going on; background music could be better, but is use well enough, and neither effects or music get in the way of the dialogue. There were no apparent problems.

Video:
Video is provided in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. For the most part, the video looks pretty good, although the animation style almost seems to have an ‘old school’ feel to it rather than the glossy look you often get with modern digital animation. That appears to be deliberate, and I like it. The style also doesn’t go overboard on the bright colours. There were no obvious encoding issues.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
As usual on Manga’s releases these days, the menus are kept simple – the main screen features Birdy (in action mode on disc one, more composed on disc two), with options for Play, Setup and Episodes on the right. There are no transitions between screens, so it’s all quick and easy to use.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While pursuing alien criminals Bacillus and Geega, Federation Investigator Birdy Cephon and her robotic sidekick Tuto infiltrate Earth, using the personas of rising Japanese idol Shion Arita and her manager as their cover. During a routine mission to apprehend their targets, though, high-school student Tsutomu Senkawa is used as a human shield by the on-the-run pair and is accidentally killed by Birdy. She takes responsiblity for her actions and decides that the only way to save his life is to share her body with him, in order to keep his consciousness alive while a replacement is grown. Tsutomu thought that this was all a dream, but he’s about to find out otherwise… Meanwhile, the Ryunka has found a home inside Tsutomu’s classmate Sayaka Nakasugi – a sickly girl who has spent her life in and out of hospital, the Ryunka gives her a new lease of life, allowing her to do things she’d never been able to – which in turn helps her find love with Tsutomu…

You can see how falling in love with a weapon of planetary destruction could be a problem – although given he’s a teenage boy sharing a body with an adult woman, it’s not the only one that Tsutomu has on his mind. Birdy the Mighty is one of those rare shows where I knew next to nothing of it before slotting the review disc into the player – I’d seen a few pieces of artwork featuring Birdy in her combat gear (very nice), but that was about it. And the name of the show is, frankly, daft enough to have given me no real reason to find out more. That was, it turns out, doing the series a grave disservice.

Tsutomu is, as with so many male anime leads, your typical high-school boy: hopeless with the girls, although with tomboyish school paper reporter Hayamiya often seen with him, he’s just going through life as best he can. Sayaka is from a rich family, but with her history of illness has never really experienced much of life – until the Ryunka gave her a new lease on it, something she’s been keen to enjoy as much as possible with her friends. Especially Tsutomu. Birdy is outwardly frivolous and lighthearted, but she’s also incredibly tough and determined when she needs to be. She also holds the rather inexplicable nickname of “Birdy the Berserker Killer”, presumably a reference to something she’s done in her past but, outside the two scenes in the series where the name is used, there’s no explanation or anything of why – and nothing in the persona you see on-screen to lead you to believe she’d be capable of such a thing.

On the bad side, we initially start off with interplanetary criminals Bacillus and Geega, but they’re really bit-players in the story and very quickly ushered from the scene in favour of genius software developer and master of self-publicity M Knight Satyajit Shyamalan. Possessed with a very high opinion of his own self-worth, he’s taken it upon himself to ensure that only those he perceives to be of similar value to humanity should be allowed to live and, having been alerted to the Ryunka’s presence and power by his own alien contacts, he’s planning to use it to wipe out the vast majority of humanity. Nice guy.

And with that, our scene is set. The body-sharing that Tsutomu and Birdy have to deal with provides a humourous kick to what for the most part is an action series with occasional very dark moments – while the onscreen action doesn’t get particularly gory, the body count is quite high for this sort of series. The early episodes are fairly predictable and light-hearted as Bacillus and Geega are dealt with, but from there is gets steadily more serious, as the relationship between Sayaka and Tsutomu is explored while the Ryunka slowly awakens inside her. Tsutomu is eventually faced with a decision that no-one in love would ever want to make: to choose between the girl he loves, and the fate of humanity… and this being anime, it shouldn’t be any surprise which way he goes. In some ways quite predictable, it’s also quite a touching tale – especially as it seems that there’s no prospect of a happy ending for them.

It’s visually pretty good, too – and not just on account of Birdy’s costume. The animation’s not top-of-the-line, for sure, but it’s nicely done, and reflects the tone of the various scenes well, adding to the appeal.

In Summary:
Overall, then, a pleasant surprise, and that’s always nice to get – a very watchable action romp with plenty going for it. This volume represents the first season of the show, the second is also on the way from Manga UK and based on this I’ll be firing it into the player as soon as the opportunity arises. Well worth checking out.

Features:
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 11th, 2011
Running Time: 295 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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