Birdy’s back for another adventure… the Ryuunka may no longer be the threat, but with the people who unleashed it having escaped from prison and fled to Earth, trouble is once again not far away – and a face from Birdy’s past is getting in the way of her investigation…
What They Say:
In the wake of a devastating explosion that nearly wiped out Tokyo, intergalactic peace-keeper Birdy Cephon is charged with tracking down the six alien terrorists responsible for the deadly attack. This stunning space agent refuses to let anything derail her mission, but the unexpected arrival of a face from her past triggers an onslaught of haunting memories. Birdy’s adversaries don’t hesitate to exploit the connection, luring her into one ambush after another and forcing her to confront a painful truth: the bad guys aren’t the only killers terrorizing Earth. As the body count rises, Birdy finds herself torn between honoring past loyalties and following unthinkable orders: defend the very enemies she’s been trained to destroy – or hunt down the only true friend she’s ever known. The future of humanity rests on her decision
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 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.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
As usual on Manga’s releases these days, the menus are kept simple – the main screen features Birdy (striking a rather alluring pose in her action gear on disc one, but looking more saddened 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One month has passed since the night the Ryuunka was unleashed on Tokyo, and while Senkawa and his schoolmates are trying to get life back to normal, Birdy is informed of a breakout from an intergalactic prison, and manages to track down one of the rogue prisoners. Although she was ordered to apprehend the criminal alive, he’s unfortunately already dead by the time she arrives on the scene, with the only clue left being a mimesis chip that allows its owner to take human form – and destroys the body when its wearer is killed. Someone else, it seems, has taken exception to the presence of the escapees on Earth, and is knocking them off one by one – and they’re not being kind in their methods, either. Given they were responsible for the deaths of thousands when the Ryuunka was released, that’s maybe understandable – but with Birdy representing the forces of justice, she can’t exactly allow that, either…
So, we have a lot of similarities with the first season: Birdy and Tsutomu are still sharing a body, Birdy is still doing what she does best and being an investigator, and romantic entanglements eventually come into play, albeit this time for Birdy rather than Senkawa. All the elements that made the first season as enjoyable are still here, and still kicking. Chalk up one tickmark in the ‘plus’ column.
There’s also a side-arc, split over several mid-season episodes, that takes us back to Birdy’s younger days and explains exactly what she is and how she came to be doing the work that she is. This is an area what was at best brushed over in the first season, touched on briefly enough to leave me highly intrigued, and I was kinda annoyed that it was never followed up on then. This time around, I got my wish, and then some – the backstory arc is arguably more entertaining and moving than the “main” story, with many of the events that took place then having a knock-on effect on the present.
It also covers the beginnings of Birdy’s relationship with Nataru, a fellow Alteran and the person who, initially unbeknownst to her, is causing such problems for her investigation now. Tsutomu was within range of the Ryuunka when it was activated – not being entirely human, he survived its affects, but saw the humans around him, including his friends, crumble to dust under its influence. It’s an experience that scarred him deeply, and led to him setting out to take revenge on those behind the Ryuunka’s release – and eventually lead to him coming into conflict with Birdy. The past and the present are woven together extremely well in this season, producing a story that’s engrossing to watch.
But it’s not all perfect. Tsutomu’s classmates & journalism club have been relegated pretty much to the sidelines, playing far less a role than they did in the first season – a move that breaks his link with the “real” world a little. There are also production value problems, with some fairly key scenes appearing to have been animated on a shoestring budget. Yes, Birdy’s visual style seems to make a deliberate effort to hark back to older days, to tie in with its original OVA incarnation, and that’s part of the show’s appeal – but this is different and just looks cheap, making me think that somewhere along the line the budget simply ran out. The results aren’t pretty.
Those are minor issues, though, that don’t overshadow the fact that Birdy the Mighty: Decode has produced another fine story here. I’d been told ahead of watching this season that it was even better than the first – personally, I’m not convinced about that, for me the first season carried the relationship aspect better and had more at stake with the power of the Ryuunka still in play; there’s nothing in this season that carries the same threat. But there’s still a lot here to like, and it’s an easy recommendation to make. My only real gripe? The promise of “to be continued…” at the end of the final episode, that looks likely to never be honoured
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
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 19th, 2011
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.